Farming is a tough business, and beginning farmers need hands-on experience and mentoring before they can successfully take on a commercial operation. Finding that experience and mentoring can be a significant challenge, and it’s at the heart of why Rogue Farm Corps (RFC) was created. The Oregon-based nonprofit was founded in 2003 by first generation organic farmers in their twenties and thirties who themselves had been mentored and considered it critical to their success. They noticed that many older farmers were retiring without anyone to take over their businesses, while young, inexperienced farmers didn’t know how to get started in commercial farming. RFC’s Executive Director Stu O’Neill says the organization was born from the desire to give beginning farmers access to mentors and in-field training. (more…)
We’re excited to publish a new Farmer Profile of an inspiring beginning farmer every few weeks on the NYFC blog to help showcase the breadth and vision of the next generation of agricultural leaders.
I’m Courtney Leeds, cofounder & director of Schoolyard Farms, a one acre urban farm in the schoolyard of Candy Lane Elementary in Milwaukie, OR.
Goat Song Farm is an integrated livestock farm that sits on only slightly more than 1 acre of land, but the centerpiece to everything is the dairy. I run a raw milk herdshare program with both dairy cows and dairy goats, and while I have been doing this with the goats for 3 years, this will be my first full year with cows. My herd numbers this year are currently nine goats that will be milking, and at the moment I have one Jersey cow, one Jersey/Guernsey heifer, and the hope of acquiring one more milking cow by summertime.
To some, it may sound like madness to have this many animals on roughly 1 acre of pasture; the secret to success though, is intensive rotational grazing. And while I can make no claim to be an expert on doing this, it has worked so far, and I think this year will be the ultimate test. I currently have 20-25 herdshare members, and hope to increase to 40-50 before the year is over.
I started dairying six years ago, just providing raw milk for my family. Dairying quickly became a passion, and in 2011 I began offering raw goat milk to local consumers. The learning curve has been steep, but the joy of doing this has kept me going and made me want to take the next step in adding cows. In 2012 I became a member of the Oregon Raw Milk Producers Association, and am working on not only building a proper, Grade A dairy parlor, but also beginning to test my raw milk on a monthly basis, and striving to produce the cleanest, healthiest raw milk for people.
In 2012 I had the rare opportunity to visit Joel Salatin’s extremely well known Polyface Farm, and stayed with the Salatin family for four days, experiencing a crash course in how they run their enormously successful farm. My knowledge learned from that trip has fueled a fire in me to farm in a way that heals my land, my animals, and my customers, and I will be heavily implementing many of Joel’s methods on my farm this year to benefit the dairy operation.
Some 2013 goals this year are building the dairy parlor, acquiring a third cow, re-mineralizing the pastures in an organic manner, rotating the grazing grounds in the most intensive manner yet, and I suppose “trying to stay sane” might be considered a goal, seeing as I run the farm by myself… At any rate, it should be a grand year filled with adventures.
You can read more about my farm by visiting my website at: http://goatsongfarm.weebly.com/index.html
It’s the height of conference season, and I was delighted to travel this week to Oregon for the Organicology Conference, a three-day gathering of folks from all across the organic food chain in Portland, OR. The event seeks to bring all stakeholder groups to the table to not only develop skills in their own areas of activity but to gain exposure to the challenges and accomplishments of those in other areas of the organic movement. The great takeaway? There are many different opinions on what organic should look like, but the more united we become, the stronger our movement will be. And without supporting the next generation of organic farmers, the organic movement cannot continue!
Excited to meet the brilliant and innovative young farmers of the beaver state, I rented a car and started touring. I met with Leah and Nellie of Oregon’s FarmON!, a one-year old coalition of young and beginning farmers in the state and a proud affiliate of NYFC. I had a drink with Megan Fehrman of the Rogue Farm Corps which has a beginning farmer training program down in Ashland, OR and Dan Bravin from the Beginning Urban Farmer Apprenticeship (BUFA.) BUFA is a partnership between Multnomah County and Oregon State University (OSU) Extension Service and trains 20 urban farmers each year.
Rowan Steele, who co-owns Fiddlehead Farm with his wife Katie Coppoletta, is starting a brand new incubator program- Headwaters Farm Incubator- on land leased by the East Multnomah Soil and Water Conservation District. I joined in for a tour of the land, and was inspired by the excitement of the potential incubatees.
Danny Percich and his 16-month old daughter Ramona showed me around Full Plate Farm, their Winter CSA farm 30 min. north of Portland in Ridgefield, Wa. I was thrilled to eat delicious, fresh carrots in February. Danny is hoping to expand his operation by renting parcels of neighbors’ land.
Evan and Rachel of Boondockers Farm in Beavercreek, OR are pioneers in breeding rare heritage poultry. The breeds they focus on raising are listed as critically endangered by the American Livestock Breeds Conservancy. The couple told me about how conventional hatcheries often kill male babies when they’re not needed. They believe anyone raising pasture-based birds shouldn’t ignore the inhumane practices of the commercial hatchery! They also grow and sell heirloom seeds, breed heritage turkeys, and raise Great Pyrenees dogs to protect their flocks.
My last stop was Lonesome Whistle Farm down in Junction City, OR where Jeff and Kasey are working to preserve and promote rare and unique dry bean and grain varieties through a bean and grain CSA. Starting out as veggie farmers, Jeff and Kasey quickly taught themselves bean and grain growing, and are happy to be producing quality product not easily found locally. They grow: Dakota Black Popcorn, Red Fife Wheat Flour, Purple Harless Barley, Emmer Berries, a diverse array of heirloom beans, polenta, and more!
Farmers in Oregon are busy fighting plantings of Roundup Ready GM Canola in the Willamette Valley which threatens its lively organic seed industry. And GM sugarbeets are grown just up the road from Lonesome Whistle Farm. There’s certainly plenty to organize around here, but the state’s supportive policies and markets for local food make Oregon a great place to be a young farmer.