Our very own Lindsey Lusher Shute was named a Champion of Change by the White House this week! She is being honored along with fellow leaders for their work to build the next generation of farmers and ranchers in the U.S.
Lindsey was in Washington, DC this week for the two-day event. At USDA, senior officials talked about the resources available for young farmers and discussed questions and opportunities with the Champions. At a White House event, Lindsey sat on a panel with fellow Champions. She discussed NYFC and the challenges facing young farmers, particularly access to land. Many of NYFC’s members do not come from farming families, and Lindsey stressed that more needs to be done to help young people without land in the family enter farming.
If the farmer paused briefly from his ceaseless toil, taking up pen and paper to list the various equipment he relies on continually in his daily labor, an afternoon would surely be lost and the farmer would retire to bed with cramps in his writing hand. Roller tables, harvest crates, wash tubs, pruners, hand hoes, soil knives, drip tape, row cover, lay flat hose, pitch forks, spades, backpack sprayers—hundreds of simple tools and supplies cluttering the dusty corners of barns and sheds. Tractors, rotary tillers, disc harrows, grain drills, box blades, wood chippers, log splitters, cultivators, cultipackers, flatbed trucks, skid loaders—the imposing diesel guzzlers and implements lined up in garages and parkways.
While I can assure you that hundreds of those simple tools and supplies can make as big an economic impact as a single big-ticket items, still, tractors have captured our agricultural imagination and are the heroes of children’s books and the pride of weathered old planters and harvesters. In or last century, the scale of farming in America has been transformed to favor 1000-plus acre plots which necessitate fleets of powerful tractors and mammoth machines.
The question of equipment and capital, it seems to me, is really a question of what decisions you make about your daily work and your financial equilibrium and why you make them. Questions we ask regarding both tools used and money spent (both whose and how much) are those of means and ends- what will the application of a particular sort of funding or a tool mean to the possible success or failure of the farm, how much labor will be eased because of it, what will be further necessary to add as a consequence, etc. Tools shape the user, as well as the farm. Nothing is neutral.
I’ve always been told that debt is the death of small farms and farmers. There’s some truth to this across generations and locales, but this is, unfortunately, the Actually Existing Capitalism of debt-financed America, and without significant saving or lucrative off-farm work, it’s hard to avoid credit.
I’m of two minds on this. On the one hand, I’m an old-fashioned, reactionary, megatechnics hating anarchist loath to hand money over to the usurious death-trip that is global finance. On the other, I partially own a debt-financed tractor, and have been frequently dependent on the patronage and credit of well-meaning family and friends, as well as banks. The necessities of marketplace existence come crashing in quick and merciless upon my ideological niceties.
Unlike many other young farmers, we had access to land even before we made a concrete decision on whether to grow vegetables or not. We were fortunate enough to have family and friends willing to rent us a slice of land. Ultimately, we decided to rent land from some of our friends. This option allowed us access to some equipment as well as a place to live.
Renting versus buying, whether land or equipment, allows us to get a feel for what works and what doesn’t. We realize now after operating for a few months, that the tractor we’re renting doesn’t fit all of our needs. The wheel spacing prohibits us from using the tractor for cultivation and weeding and limits the size of our raised beds.
We realized that hand weeding and using wheel-hoes and stirrup-hoes isn’t enough, especially when you get just under three inches of rain in one night and a continual rainfall for the next 10 days, amounting to double the average rainfall for the month of June. Let’s just say, once it dried up and we were no longer drowning in water, we were drowning in weeds. With that said, going forward we’d like to invest in some sort of mechanical weeding equipment, which we feel is necessary until we can get the weed seed bank under control.
Last month USDA announced $13 million in Farm Bill funding will be available for organic certification cost share assistance, a win for small and beginning farmers who want to go organic. Secretary Tom Vilsack said the move is in response to an increasing consumer demand for organic products, and USDA “need[s] to make sure that small farmers who choose to grow organic products can afford to get certified.”
Programs administered by the National Organic Program (NOP) through USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) will manage the funds. The National Organic Certification Cost-Share Program (NOCCSP) will make $11.5 million available to all 50 states, the District of Columbia, and 5 U.S. territories. The Agricultural Management Assistance Organic Certification Cost Share Program (AMA) will make $1.5 million available to organic operations in Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Utah, Vermont, West Virginia, and Wyoming.
Here at NYFC, we think farmers should be spending the summer fighting weeds, fixing fences and growing food—not worrying about student debt and untenable leases. In this July newsletter, we’ll tell you about two exciting campaigns NYFC is taking on: tackling student loan debt and fighting for affordable land. Plus, see us at the White House and read updates on federal programs and local events.
As news of the Wests’ staggering drought makes headlines nationwide, it can be difficult to look past the waves of dark red on the drought monitor. Reports are rolling in on California farmers fallowing land due to lack of water, tumbleweed take-over, and western reservoirs dropping to their lowest levels in history.
Apply by this Friday, July 25th for NYFC and Equity Trust’s Land Access Innovations Workshop for land trusts.
The one-day, in-person training is aimed at staff from a select group of land trusts that have a high degree of commitment and sufficient capacity to move forward in the implementation of farm protection projects that incorporate affordability innovations. Topics will include: easement tools and ground leases, fundraising, monitoring and enforcement, and legal considerations. Following the training, land trusts will be part of an ongoing working group and receive assistance from mentor organizations as they implement farmland affordability mechanisms into their easement projects.
The workshop will take place on Sunday, September 21st in Providence, Rhode Island, immediately following the Land Trust Alliance Rally.
Please email Holly with any questions about the workshop or the application – firstname.lastname@example.org.
About a year ago, the FDA proposed new regulations under the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) that would have created impenetrable obstacles to starting a new farm business through onerous water-testing requirements, amendment restriction and more. In response, NYFC members sprang into action. NYFC volunteers hosted an incredible 70 letter-writing parties across the country, generating nearly 1,000 comments, out of the 18,582 total submitted. (more…)
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!