This just in from our Texas Young Farmer affiliate!
Farmshare Austin (FSA) is a new 501c3 in Austin,TX dedicated to educating the next generation of organic vegetable growers in Central Texas. This fall we will accept our first class of students who will live and work on our educational farm as part of an intensive six month program. Produce grown on the educational farm will go to individuals in Austin who may otherwise find it difficult to access healthy fresh choices.
Farmshare Austin’s pilot program, Farmer Starter, is designed to provide aspiring farmers with the essential skills and training needed to run a sustainable farming business. Using a blend of hands-on in-field training and formal classroom education, students will gain practical knowledge and experience in sustainable organic growing methods as well as the business and financial planning skills necessary to establish a successful market farm.
We are currently seeking six full time students to participate in our 2014 pilot program. Our application process is open until August 15th, 2014 for the program beginning October 1st, 2014.
Go to farmshareaustin.org for more information and to submit an application today!
Looking to stay up to date with NYFC’s work on land access for beginning farmers? Check out our new land access page where you will find links to our Conservation 2.0 report, land access working group, policy advocacy work, and case studies of farmers getting on the land. There is also a collection of resources and reports on land access issues that we will continue to update. Be sure to check back in the fall for our guidebook on working with land trusts! (more…)
Across the country, local county commissions for the Farm Service Administration (FSA) are taking nominations for new members. These commissions are critical to the operation of the FSA. They help to determine how programs are administered on the local level and ensure local needs are met, including those of young farmers.
When announcing the nomination period, USDA Secretary Vilsack stressed the importance of engaging all types of farmers, including young farmers, in the elections. “I hope that every eligible farmer and rancher will participate in this year’s county committee elections. Through the county committees, farmers and ranchers have a voice; their opinions and ideas get to be heard on federal farm programs.”
If you have had trouble accessing FSA programs in the past, serving as a commissioner is a great way to help change the system from the inside. Commissioners participate in regular meetings where they provide guidance to their local office and build relationships with local agents. Not only will this help when you need to work with FSA on your own farm, but you will be helping FSA to better reach and serve other young farmers!
Nominations are currently being accepted at your local FSA office through August 1st. In order to serve as a commissioner you must be participating or cooperating in a FSA program – if you are receiving an FSA loan or apart of a conservation program, you are eligible! Voting takes place November 3rd through December 1st, with new commissioners taking office on January 1st. Nomination forms are available in your local office or online.
Each seed has a story. Some seeds have been passed down relatively unchanged for generations. Others have been breed for certain characteristics and traits. And others have been adapted for climates like North Dakota.
At our farm, we tend towards open-pollinated, heirloom varieties of seed, for reasons practical, sentimental and political. We are suckers for the poetry of seed catalogues and the promise of hopeful January orders. Our seed shelves spell out the history of our journey to this place- corn and shell beans from Oregon, garlic and dry beans from Vashon, pumpkins and sunflowers from Washington, tomatoes from a friend in Spain, greens from California. Carried along like treasures, these things have sustained our farm, and each row seeded has been a remembrance of past labors and their ultimate fulfillment. Similarly, I hope for our animals to grow with us- to carry our farm through their generations as the farm grows with them. Many have spoken passionately and eloquently in recent years about the value and necessity of seed and breed preservation, especially in the face of industry consolidation and economic monopolization. I have little to add; I believe the strongest argument to be made for saving seed, for breeding animals, and for choosing wisely and carefully for your place is an argument of sentiment- these animals and seeds carry us and our history with them, and all the complicated emotions of planting, hatching, kidding, harvesting and slaughter alongside. That lends a power to the relationship we have with each crop and flock and herd.
This is all grade-A small-farm propaganda right here, folks. Easy stuff, tugs at the heartstrings, etc. But let’s tackle the critter that supports our farm and accounts for most of our income— the Cornish Cross chicken. The Chicken Everyone Loves To Hate.
The Cornish are easy to obtain, easy to raise to a predictable finishing weight in a predictable amount of time, and easy to slaughter and butcher. They do well in a pasture-based operation using daily-moved chicken tractors. They finish faster than any other meat-breed. When fully dressed out, their meat is flavorful, well balanced between dark and white to the taste of our customers, and they are neither too lean nor too fatty. If raised competently and with care, they will have no more health issues than any other breed of chicken. For a small operation such as ours, with limited land and a market that demands fresh birds delivered weekly, they are the best option available.
Other options would include dual-purpose or heritage meat breeds, and hybridized breeds like Freedom Rangers. The downside, for us, to these breeds rests in a simple fact: they take longer to raise than the Cornish. This means we must keep more birds on our property at any given time. With limited pasture space, this is difficult, and additional time to reach finishing weight means more feed, (which already accounts for the bulk of our costs) more manure on fields, and more daily labor expended on chicken care. All this balances out to make the Cornish more or less our only practical option for serious commercial meat production, especially as we seek to limit how expensive our birds are for our customers. The Cornish help us be financially sustainable in the short-term so that we can pursue elements of breed preservation, seed saving, and ecological stewardship in other aspects of our farming.
With proper management and care, the Cornish are healthy, alert animals, but they are not laying hens; they will not act like them. They are not innately inclined to poor health any more than any other chicken. The more we speak of them as ugly, unfortunate creatures, the more we delegitimize them as living animals on par with other critters on the farm, and excuse ourselves when they develop health problems or seem uncomfortable. Ultimately, a farm’s animals reflect most of all the quality and care of the farmer.
We speak often of the importance of heritage breeds -of what is old and passed down. It is harder to come to love and recognize the importance of a breed that in its most common form represents all the abuses of industrial agriculture. Harder, but no less essential, for in doing so we strip the industrial system of its tools, and of the arguments for their maintenance and abuse- we provide a living, viable alternative. If such an alternative is to become commonplace, however, it must in the short-term exist on the same field as that of the industrial model, or exist solely in a niche, easily isolated and unthreatening. The question for us as farmers is one of assessing which breed of meat chicken will do this best- which breed will grow quickly, reliably, and healthily, and will allow us to produce meat whose real cost is represented, but whose price and availability is not so limited as to restrict access to the conspicuous moral consumption of the wealthy.
So sing the praises of the Cornish Cross. Honor them, raise them well, and give them their rightful place as part of farming for a sustainable future and a well-fed community.
We wanted to be able to sing “Old MacDonald Had a Farm” when we walk around our fields. Think about the standard farm animals that are on those singing kids’ toys where the arrow spins around and selects an animal and then you hear the sound they make.
But we wanted to be able to support healthy animals and pay our bills, so we tabled our desire for a menagerie – at least for now. We considered our 13-acre field that has been row-cropped for 30 years. Instead of running the farm, we decided to let the farm do the planning.
Our soil test revealed 1.5% organic matter in our field, so our focus became growing the health of our soil. Since renovating the pasture was the goal, we didn’t want to rely heavily on the pasture as a sole food source. Our solution, then, was to steer clear of ruminants for the time being.
We wanted the intensely managed nutrient application that chicken tractors provide. We wanted the soil tilling capabilities of pigs. We wanted the customer exposure that turkeys provide (Thanksgiving is just the best). This year we are fertilizing our field with Cornish Cross chickens, Hereford-Large Black pigs, and White Broad-breasted turkeys.
To spare you the suspense I can reveal that the only breed we picked was the Cornish Cross. We missed the window for readily available feeder pigs, and deciding on the Hereford-Large Black was largely based on our feeling that these pigs were our best (and close to only) option. And the hatchery I have experience with only had White Broad-Breasted in the numbers and time frame we needed.
Still, we think a lot about breeds. When it comes to raising meat birds, this year marks my fourth in a row of raising Cornish Cross chickens. We waffled a bit on whether to raise Freedom Rangers or Cornish Cross, and here are the reasons we went Cornish Cross.
Our first and foremost reason for raising Cornish Cross is our market. We won’t be selling pieces and parts, so I think having big breasts on a whole bird increases our chance of a sale.
Another reason that played a big role in our selection is processing. Liz and I both worked in a state inspected poultry processing plant last year, and that experience really skewed me toward the Cornish Cross and away from the Freedom Ranger. The Cornish Cross has bigger cavities and accommodates my hand more easily. The Freedom Rangers generally has a larger layer of fat – not a bad thing from a culinary standpoint but did make our equipment greasy and slippery.
Our last factor we weighed was foraging behavior. Freedom Rangers tend to enjoy the reputation of better foragers than Cornish Cross. That may be true, but I’ve always enjoyed the Cornish Cross rushing to the new grass as the tractor is advanced and I think they do a good job.
I have less to say about the pigs and turkeys. We get the pigs next week and I am excited to get to know them. Since I don’t yet have stories about them, I can say that we liked that the cross should do well on our pasture, we liked the farmer, and the timing allowed us to drill our field into a pasture mix.
On the turkeys, we quite like the heritage breed Bourbon Reds and I can see them in our future. We raised them one year and they are energetic, curious, good-looking, and in my experience, delicious. But they are also more expensive, and our budget looked a lot better with a Broad-Breasted.
I think the White Broad-Breasted turkeys are also curious birds and I enjoyed raising them last year. Also, when Liz is hefting them into the cones on processing day and their wings are spread, I like to make jokes about her killing angels. It’s the little things.
When we start looking ahead to next season and beyond, I’m not sure if we will adhere to breed loyalty, if we will be stuck with limited options again, or if we will expand our animal groups. I like that flexibility. Next year we will again listen to the influence of the field, but we will also have the customer feedback that we have been missing this year. And if the off-season goes well, the barn will be ready to accommodate over-wintering and breeding pigs. But shoot, that might be a whole other blog.
Our farming livelihood rests on the success of seeds. But how strange to hold something so small in the palm of my hand and realize I’m investing a lion’s share of days, dollars, and ideas in a speck of organic matter that appears so lifeless. And yet, time and time again, the seemingly powerless soon pushes through soil, and the seemingly lifeless yields fruit in its season. If we wish to finish well, we must begin well. If we desire good fruit, we must plant good seeds.
Our farming season begins with seeds. Ordered when the soil lies locked in ice and snow, we wrap ourselves in layers of wool sweaters and dream of August evenings when thousands of seeds planted in February, March, April and May will grace our dinner table with crisp greens in clay bowls, sliced tomatoes on maple cutting boards, purple eggplants, roasted cauliflower, mashed sweet potatoes, and all manner of bounty. In large measure, we choose the seeds and the varieties we, ourselves, will enjoy eating and preparing, because when we are excited about our vegetables, how much easier is it to excite eager market-goers when lines queue up Saturday mornings in Fox Point or Whitefish Bay or Tuesday mornings in Thiensville?
Flavor, however, cannot be our only consideration. With over 75 CSA members already invested in Wild Ridge Farm before even our first head of lettuce matures, we need to know the seeds we plant will deliver the beautiful produce everybody expects. Thus, many of the varieties which have become our mainstays, were first the mainstays of the farmers who taught us. The seeds which we rely on year after year, were first the seeds our mentors relied on year after year. With so many aspects of farming dictated by forces out of human control—rainfall, field conditions, temperatures, disease pressures—we strive to eliminate as many variables as possible; thus, if we know Carmen peppers are consistently beautiful and delicious, Carmen peppers are the peppers we plant.
We source almost all our seeds from either High Mowing Organic Seeds or Johnny’s Selected Seeds. These two companies have been reliable and timely and carry the varieties we like to grow. Since we are not a certified organic farm, we are not strictly limited to organic seeds, but both High Mowing and Johnny’s carry organic seeds and this is our preference. Close to 90% of the varieties we grow are hybrids. We choose to grow hybrids for their reliable germination rates, consistent maturation rates, and dependable yields—in order to serve our CSA customers, our market customers, and our restaurant customers our timing must be impeccable, ensuring weekly quality and quantity of harvests remains sufficient from week to week.
Produce farmers are constantly balancing the scales of quantity and quality, hoping always to have an abundance of both. With this goal in mind, Wild Ridge has the privilege this season of collaborating with several local farmers, chefs, and plant breeders under the direction of Julie Dawson of UW Madison’s Horticulture Department in a project to develop vegetable breeds which optimize both flavor and productivity—seeds which thrive in the growing conditions unique to our Wisconsin landscape. At Julie’s invitation, we’ve selected several varieties of lettuce, carrots, and winter squash seeds to grow specifically for taste trials conducted by a panel of Madison chefs led by Tory Miller of L’Etoile and Graze.
We believe the collaboration of regional farmers, chefs, and plant breeders has great potential to elevate local food cultures and local economies, eliminating over-reliance on long-distance shipping, reducing fuel and energy spent in transport and refrigeration, and enhancing the vitality of our existence on each singular corner of the earth where we’ve planted these tiny seeds and daily work for their growth.
Wild Ridge Farm – Waubeka, Wisconsin
The 2014 Farm Bill changed several USDA programs to benefit beginning farmers and ranchers. These changes have already taken affect – all you need to do is ask about them at your local FSA or NRCS office!
EQIP Advance Payment Option
The Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) provides funding to help farmers pay for on-farm conservation improvements. These activities can range from creating conservation plans to installing fences to keep cattle out of a waterway. Within EQIP, there are specific initiatives focused on helping farmer convert to or meet organic practices and building season-extending high tunnels. Potential funding opportunities vary state-to-state, so its important to consult with your local office.
The EQIP program is a cost-share with a farmer. It provides part of the funding for a conservation improvement and requires the farmer to pay the balance. In addition, this program general only pays the farmer once the project is complete. This ensures for that the farmer uses the funding correctly. However, it can also be a burden on a farmer, since the farmer needs to have the cash on hand to pay for the entire project before reimbursement.
Recognizing this challenge, the Farm Bill includes an Advance Payment Option for EQIP projects. Beginning farmers – along with socially disadvantaged, limited resource, veteran, and Native American farmer – can receive up to half of their EQIP funding at the beginning of the project. This eases some of the burden on new farmers to initially finance the entire project themselves.
Conservation Loans are offered by FSA to help farmers implement an NRCS-approved conservation plan. Practices included in the plan can include, for example, improving pasture, adding forest cover, or transitioning to organic agriculture. As with the EQIP program, conservation practices are determined state-by-state.
These are a “guaranteed” loan from FSA – the loan is held by a bank and FSA agrees to pay the balance of the loan in case of a default. Lenders are much more willing to offer farmers loans if they are backed by FSA. For most farmers, FSA guarantees 80% of the loan. This is a increase from the previous Farm Bill, where the limit was 75%. In addition, FSA will guarantee up to 90% of the loan for a beginning or socially disadvantaged farmer. This makes it even more likely that lenders will offer a loan to a beginning farmer.
Down Payment Loans
Traditional FSA direct farm ownership loans cover a maximum of $300,000. These loans are made by FSA and no down payment is required. However, many farms cost significantly more than the $300,000 maximum. In order to finance a more expensive loan, beginning farmers can use a Down Payment Loan from FSA. These loans can be used to finance a property up to $667,000 with a 5% down payment. This is an increase from the past Farm Bill, which capped the total at $500,000
These loans are a hybrid of a direct and a guaranteed loan. FSA will loan 45% of the purchase price of the farm. The farmer then needs to use a private lender to loan 50% of purchase price. For this private loan, FSA will guarantee 95% of the value of that loan. Then the farmer provides the final 5% in cash. For the its portion of the loan, FSA charges 1.5% interest – the lowest of any of its loans. FSA also waives the fee normally charged to guarantee a loan.
Joint Financing Loans
Joint financing loans, also called participation loans, are a partnership between FSA and a private lender. FSA provides a direct loan for up to 50% of the total cost to purchase a farm. A private lender then finances the balance. As a part of the 2014 Farm Bill, the interest rate on the FSA portion of these loans was lowered to 2.5%. A traditional FSA direct farm ownership loan is currently offered at 4% interest.
Each year FSA only has a set amount of money to lend. Congress determines this total in the Farm Bill. Joint financing allows FSA to provide less of the total value of a loan, which preserves more funding for other farmers. These loans are designed to stretch FSA’s funding even farther.
National Organic Certification Cost Share Program
The National Organic Cost Share Program assists farmers with the expenses involved in organic certification. The Program covers up to 75% of the cost, up to $750 per certification category per year for a farm. This program is a reimbursement – the USDA’s Agriculture Marketing Service only makes a payment once a farm has successfully been certified. In the 2014 Farm Bill, this program was given a significant increase in funding. Whereas the program had $5 million per year available before, it now has $11.5 million per year. This should significantly increase the number of farmer the program can reach.
For more information on organic certification, check out the NYFC Vegetable Farmer’s Guide to Organic Certification
Ready to get certified? Find an agent
|It’s officially summer and you’re probably in over your heads. But if you can come up for air, we want to collect your USDA successes/frustrations, introduce our new staffers and this season’s Bootstrap Bloggers, and update you on our fight for affordable farmland.
Holly and Eric Are Here to Help
We have two new editions to the NYFC team. At the end of May, Holly Rippon Butler joined the coalition as our Land Access Campaign Manager and Eric Hansen as our DC-based Policy Analyst. Read more about who they are and how they can help you!
Are you Following Hannah, Nate, Anna and Seth … the 2014 Bootstrap Bloggers?
Nate and Liz apprenticed at Maple Wind Farm in Huntington, Vermont before starting Nightfall Farm in Indiana.
In this fourth season of the Bootstrap Blog project, we’re following new farmers from North Dakota, Indiana, Wisconsin and California. Each month, they’re sharing stories about success and failure in the field. Read up:
Exeter, RI – June 18 Young Farmer Nights Little River Farm, Exeter, RI, 101 William Reynolds Road, starts at 6pm. New this year! Diverse vegetable operation run by Bob & Camille. A real stunner of a hoophouse. For more info: youngfarmernetwork.org
Plainfield, VT – June 29 Vermont Young Farmers Coalition, Farm Olympics at Onion River Farmstead 61 Onion River Rd. Plainfield, VT. 11-3pm Potluck and BBQ to follow. Prepare yourself for remay relay, obstacle cources, electric deer fence limbo, blind folded speed seeding, zucchini bank off and best farmer “costume” for more info: firstname.lastname@example.org, 802.426.3233, email@example.com, www.facebook.com/VTYoungFarmers
Wrentham, MA – July 2 Young Farmer Nights White Barn Farm 458 South Street, Wrentham, MA, starts at 6pm. White Barn Farm is a small, family-run farm in Wrentham, MA. New addition to the YFN roster! youngfarmernetwork.org
Matunuck, RI – July 14 Young Farmer Nights Matunuck Oyster Bar Vegetable Farm Potters Pond, Matunuck, RI, starts at 6pm. Vegetable Farm supplying the Matunuck Oyster Bar in South County. We’ll learn about the farm-to-table model this farm/restaurant partnership uses. youngfarmernetwork.org
Jamestown, RI – July 30 Young Farmer Nights Windmist Farm 71 Weeden Lane, Jamestown, RI, starts at 6pm. Windmist Farm is a beautiful diversified livestock farm in Jamestown! youngfarmernetwork.org
Rehoboth, MA – August 11 Young Farmer Nights Rosasharn 57 County Street, Rehoboth, MA, starts at 6pm. A perennial YFN favorite! Goats. Vegetables. Tree house. youngfarmernetwork.org
Cranston, RI – August 27 Young Farmer Nights Scratch Farm 35 Pippin Orchard Road, Cranston, RI, starts at 6pm. Scratch Farm, located at Urban Edge in Cranston, is a 2 acre diversified vegetable operation. We’ll walk the field and hear about Scratch’s seed saving practices from the proprietor of Small State Seeds herself. youngfarmernetwork.org
Austin, TX – June 18: Texas Young Farmers Coalition Hang Out @ Black Star Coop! 7020 Easy Wind Dr, Suite 100, Austin, Texas, starts at 7pm. Join TXYFC at the Black Star Coop Pub and Brewery every 3rd Wednesday of the month for some of the delicious brews and eats. Very casual. www.texasyoungfarmers.org
Manor, TX – June 22 Texas Young Farmers Coalition Crop Mob @ Tecolote Farm Tecolote Farm, 16301 Decker Lake Rd, Manor, TX. 8am – 11pm. The spring rain brought goodness but it also brought weeds! Come out and help Tecolote Farm regain control of their River Property. We’ll weed out at the new River property and then join in for their Annual CSA Potluck! Farmer David will also be around to give a tour and spread his knowledge about farming in Texas. Pizza will be provided afterwards. If you would like to partake in the potluck, please feel free to bring a dish and join in. Cooler will be provided. Contact lorigh @ gmail.com to RSVP and for more information. www.texasyoungfarmers.org
Austin, TX – July 16 Texas Young Farmers Coalition Hang Out @ Black Star Coop! 7020 Easy Wind Dr, Suite 100, Austin, Texas, starts at 7pm. Join TXYFC at the Black Star Coop Pub and Brewery every 3rd Wednesday of the month for some of the delicious brews and eats. Very casual.
Prospect, KY – June 22 Beginning farmers Meet Up Louisville La Minga 13125 Hwy 42 Prospect, KY, starts at 5pm. Community Farm Alliance Ag Legacy Initiative invites you to join other area farmers to share a meal and talk shop. Discussions with Caroline Heine from Seed Capital Kentucky, David Talifero from KIVA Zip loans, and Steve Paradis from Fresh Start Growers Supply. Bring a dish to share, a plate and a fork. RSVP to Carolyn@cfaky.org. communityfarmalliance.org/young-and-beginning-farmers
London, KY – June 28 Beginning Farmers Meet Up Eastern Kentucky Sustainable Harvest Farm 108 Pistol Creek Rd. London, KY, starts at 7pm. Join other area farmers for an informal gathering to share a meal and talk shop. Bring a dish to share, a plate, fork and lawn chair.
Blairsville, GA – July 5 Southeastern Young and Beginning Farmers Alliance Three Little Pigs Benefit – Camp out and Pig Roast Sun Dog Farm,18 Dockery Road Blairsville, GA 30512. 3.30pm. For more info & tickets: m.bpt.me/event/702825
Santa Cruz, CA – June 24 Central Coast Farmers Guild Live Oak Grange Hall, 1900 17th Ave, Santa Cruz, CA, starts at 6pm. A Farmers Guild is a monthly gathering of farmers, ranchers and agriculture advocates who come together to socialize, share resources, build lasting relationships, and celebrate our local food communities. www.farmersguild.org
Sonoma, CA – June 29 Sonoma Valley Farmers Guild Sonoma Valley Grange Hall, 18627 California 12, Sonoma, CA, starts at 6pm. www.farmersguild.org
Albuquerque, NM – June 30 Rio Grande Farmers Coalition & The Ag Collaborative host Quick & Dirty “Farm to Restaurant” Prep MRCOG offices at 809 Copper Ave. NW, Albuquerque, NM. 3:30-5:30pm. Speakers TBA. Contact the Ag Collaborative @ 505-724-3619, or firstname.lastname@example.org for more information. www.riograndefarmers.org
Sonoma, CA – July 1 North Coast Farmers Guild PARTY! Sonoma Valley Grange Hall 18627 California 12, Sonoma, CA, starts at 6pm. www.farmersguild.org
Davis, CA – July 7 Yolo Farmers Guild Cook-out! Collins Farm new location, 9055 Olmo Lane, Davis, CA, starts at 6.30pm www.farmersguild.org
Nevada City, CA – July 31 Nevada County Farmers Guild First Rain Farm, 19832 Rector Rd. Nevada City, CA, starts at 6pm www.farmersguild.org
Middletown, WI – July 8 Wisconsin Young Farmers Summer Gathering Capital Brewery Bier Garten in Middleton, WI. 5:30-9pm. BYO Food! No Name String Band will be playing bluegrass. wisconsinyoungfarmers.wordpress.com
Jamestown, MO – August 3 Missouri Young Farmers Coalition Crop Mob and Potluck Happy Hollow Farm, 17199 Happy Hollow Rd, Jamestown, MO, starts at 4pm. More info: Liz Graznak – email@example.com. happyhollowfarm-mo.com
Many of you have probably heard the often-cited statistic that the average age of a farmer is more than 58 years old. The exact number varies by state – for example, in Nebraska, where I’m from, it’s closer to 56 – but overall, the numbers point to a disturbing trend: farmers are old and have only been getting older for the last 30 years. That said, in the process of filming our new documentary, Growing Cities, we’ve met so many incredible young and beginning farmers that it’s hard not to be optimistic for the future.
The film follows my childhood friend, Andrew Monbouquette, and I as we visit urbanites who are challenging the way this country grows its food one vacant lot and backyard chicken coop at a time. We’ve found city farming has remarkable power on many levels—it strengthens communities, creates jobs, revitalizes blighted areas, and much more. But, perhaps the most exciting thing to me is the pervasiveness of young people who are so dedicated to fixing our food system.
At nearly every farm we visited we found young people fulfilling roles from educators to head farmers. Some were just out of college and farming for the first-time, whereas others had completed apprenticeships or other courses of study which prepared them for their work.
In many ways it seems that urban agriculture is our generation’s back to the land movement, but with some crucial differences. Today’s young farmers are not running away from society’s problems but tackling them head on. They are helping solve issues of hunger, childhood obesity, and giving hope to many communities where there was little previously. And many of these young people are taking the lessons they learn in the city, in both farming and community-building, and going on to apply these to their work in peri-urban and rural areas.
And sure, while many young people are flocking to urban centers like New York or San Francisco (as they always have), there are many who are putting down roots in their less assuming hometowns, like Youngstown, OH or Des Moines, IA. It’s these farmers who are on the leading edge of this movement, taking it to places it’s never been before.
For instance, in my hometown, Omaha, Nebraska a collective of young people came together to form Big Muddy Urban Farm, which has a 25 family CSA and grows on vacant lots throughout the city (full disclosure: I live with two of them.) In the heart of industrial corn and soybean country, these farmers are a shining beacon of hope and a wonderful example for neighbors, many of whom don’t know a CSA from a GMO – which, let’s be honest, is probably true for a majority of the US population.
To me this is our blueprint for changing the food system – we can’t continue to go back and forth with those who are already in the movement — we must branch out and work in the places that need it most, often in our own backyards. As Eugene Cook, a farmer in Atlanta says in the film, ‘Grow Something, Grow Where you Are.’
Please help Growing Cities spread these inspiring farmers’ stories to millions on PBS! Pledge $75 to the campaign and you can get an NYFC prize pack including a Farmers Unite tee, NYFC membership, button and more!
Learn more and donate on their Kickstarter page: www.kck.st/1kDfhgP