Nothing beats hands on learning especially in a job like farming. That’s not to say that some “book learning” isn’t important but you can only learn so much from a book then you’ve got to get your hands dirty. I know everyone is pushing college on high school kids because mine are both in high school. The school has even started having middle schoolers visit college campuses and gearing their classes towards “higher education”.
I might get shot for saying this but I really think kids should NOT go to college right out of high school. They should spend a few years working, earning a living for themselves, before they head to college. Then they would appreciate the education they do get rather than thinking it’s owed to them. Some would even choose not to go. I know I would hire someone with a good work ethic over someone with a degree any day. Ok, that’s enough raving about that.
I graduated high school with a full ride scholarship to any college in the state so I had to attend college right out of high school. After my first, and only year at school, I got a job as a working student on a horse farm in Idaho. I learned more in the three months on the farm than I learned all year in school. I opted not to go back to school. If the scholarship program had been set up differently, I might have gone to school after a few years of working but I forfeited it because I didn’t need a formal education to do what I do. A few classes on business and accounting would have been perfect but the classes that were required were a waste of time for me.
Getting a job doing the work you want to eventually do is the best education you can get and you get paid while you learn! I worked for several years on a dairy, milking cows. It gave me a chance to see if dairying was really what I wanted to do. Eventually, though, you have to just jump in and start doing it yourself. When it’s your own time and money, you learn quickly! I’ve had to learn most things the hard way but failure is not really failure if you’ve learned something from it!
A lot of my “education” has been networking with other people. I have learned how to use other people’s education. The university extension program has been critical to my success. The great thing about them is, they’re free! I attended the Lost Rivers Grazing Academy, put on by the University of Idaho. It was one of the best things I could have done. Not only did they give me an intense 4 days of pasture management, I met two of the most important people as far as the success of the farm goes. Wilson Gray is a livestock economist with U of I and has helped me put together my financial paperwork each year. Christi Falen, Lincoln County Extension Educator, has been instrumental in developing a working farm plan and works with me on extending the grazing season with unconventional forages. She’s also one of my best friends now, giving me technical support and a shoulder to lean on when I need it.
I’ve read a little about something they do in Australia called “share milking”. Basically, a farm owner brings in a young couple to a working dairy. The couple does the daily work on the farm and over the course of a few years, builds their own herd of cows. When they have enough equity built up, they move to their own place, taking their herd that they’ve built and a new share milker moves into the old farm. I think it’s a great system and I’d like to eventually try something like it to let newcomers into the business. I know there is a lot of young people out there that can’t afford the capital investment of a farm and are “wasting away” their productive years on a dead-end job that they hate. It’s a project I need to do more research on, “in my spare time”.
Thanks to Stonyfield, Profits for the Planet, for funding the 2013 Bootstrap blog series.