I am a farmer because of the way it makes me feel at the end of the day. The physical exhaustion that my muscles carry into sleep, the weary contentment of finished labor lulling my brain to stillness. Some days I farm solely for the satisfaction that weeding can bring. I farm because I’ve never been very good at sitting still and because I’ve always been a morning person. I farm because I love feeding people, I delight in seeing the joy that can result from something as simple as a head of butter lettuce. (more…)
One sure way to make a younger Nate laugh: just tell him that one day he would intentionally and willingly choose to be a farmer. (more…)
Recently, I had a conversation with a woman whose fifty-one years of experience farming inspired her to warn me away from pursuing it. (more…)
Lemonade Springs Farm is run by myself, Seth, and my partner, Kathleen. We are in our second full season. The farm is located in Watsonville, California, about a mile inland in the heart of the central coast’s commercial strawberry growing country. (more…)
Wild Ridge Farm is the convergence of three highly-skilled and passionate individuals: Anna Metscher, Alissa Moore and Joseph Dittman. Anna and Alissa have a combined farming experience of eleven years and between the two of them have worked on or managed seven different highly diversified farms. Joseph has spent time gardening and volunteering on sustainable farms, and his skills as a carpenter, designer, and builder round out the crew. They approach their business partnership cooperatively and collaboratively: distributing the workload equally, listening to each other’s ideas, and allowing one another’s skills to shine. (more…)
You know that magic moment when you finally slam your tractor out of creeper gear and start to move with a bit of speed? Starting our farm is like that, only I didn’t realized we had been in creeper gear. My wife Liz and I have been working on farms in New England for the last five years, and we’ve just moved home to Indiana to farm on our own. Welcome to Nightfall Farm! (more…)
My name is Hannah Sargent and I am a marketer turned farmer turned marketing-farmer. My fiancé Jonathon Moser and I own and run Forager Farm, a vegetable CSA in central North Dakota and are in our first season! We are on a mission to revive our food culture by providing fresh, local produce directly to our members.
In January 2013, we jetted off to Australia to live and work at Captain’s Creek Organic Farm, an organic vegetable farm located one hour north/northwest of Melbourne, Victoria. While there we managed a vegetable CSA (or vegetable box scheme as they say down under) with an average of 100 boxes going out to local customers within 100 miles of the farm every week. We learned the ins and outs of the operation and fell in love with it. (more…)
We are excited to announce the start to the Bootstrap Writing Series of 2014!
This year we’ve selected four farmers from across the country who are in the early stages of starting their farms to share their season with the NYFC community. Each writer will be writing an piece once per month through the rest of this year, sharing the inside scoop of their operation. (more…)
Policy is one of those subjects that people either seem to love or hate. Some farmers have no interest in getting involved with policy, even though it might directly affect them. And clearly, most policy makers at higher levels of government have little interest or relation to farming. Bridging this divide to create policy that is responsive to the needs of dairy farmers across the United States is something that we both are active with and is a frequent topic of discussion on the farm.
I’m writing after our recent (and very productive) dry and hot spell from the comfort of cool weather. The cows are loving it. This post is about the training that I have received, am currently receiving and what I still need to know… I have been looking forward to this post because I feel like I did this farming thing a little backwards.
Growing up on a farm gave me so much experience and insight but I often had the freedom to pick and choose my jobs growing up and I habitually stuck to the cows and the calves and avoided (or was forced to avoid) tractor and repair work. Much later, when I started thinking that I wanted to be a dairy farmer I was already a cheese maker and the jump from making cheese to making milk on the same land didn’t feel so drastic in many ways, but I was long out of practice in our dairy since my father had sold his cows years ago.
To learn more I went to conferences, read books, asked questions, found mentors, visited farms and got a farming job on a grass based dairy nearby. Reading was great because it was where inspiration came from and where questions were formulated plus it was accessible and I was devouring it.
Important as it was as a basis for my new thoughts, reading really didn’t hold a candle to what I learned from other farmers while working with them. I felt like working with other people who were actively trying to improve upon a grass based dairying system was my favorite part of that year and I learned the most while there. But maybe as a cautionary tale—I was only working weekends at that farm because I still needed my cheese making job on my home farm, plus I only worked there for one year!
It is my advice to anybody interested in starting a dairy farm to work on them first, for many years, and try to get the hang of each different part—especially the parts you are least familiar with. Having good machine skills and a head for repair work would save me so much time and so much money…but I am learning that stuff as I go so my only options are to treat each vet visit and tractor tune up as a tiny class whose bill is really more like my tuition. I wish that I had more training in budgeting and record keeping. I know cows and I am still learning them with a lot of energy but that is the part that comes easiest to me.
Of course, there is an argument for jumping in head first and grabbing opportunities as they come. Since that is what I did, foolish as it may have been, I can at least say that I am learning more than ever as I set out to make this dairy business work. I am still a newbie and I have so much work to do but I can also look back and see leaps and bounds of personal and farm progress. I work hard and I work all the time but I am excited about what I am doing. My advice is to spend lots of time planning and to do even more.
Thanks to Stonyfield, Profits for the Planet, for funding the 2013 Bootstrap blog series.