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Posts Tagged ‘young farmers’

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Photo: Thomas Newman
Jennifer Sharrock, left, is a beginning farmer in Palmer, Alaska. When she needed land to expand, she was matched with land owner Jan Newman through the Alaska Farmland Trust.

I’ve posted a few times about beginning farmers and, in particular, Letterbox Farm in rural Hudson, New York (here). Sandra’s niece and her partners at Letterbox Farm are perfect examples of a hopeful trend in farming: young people getting serious about agriculture and bringing in new and sustainable approaches. It’s incredibly hard work, but they love it.

Today’s post is also about young people getting into farming and is part of a Christian Science Monitor series on the topic. Reporter Sarah Matusek addresses young farmers’ need for land and creative ways older farmers can provide it.

“Jan Newman became an accidental alpaca farmer. She took up knitting in the 1990s at home in Palmer, Alaska, to supply her first child with natural-fiber clothing, and one thing led to another. She innovated again in 2013 when she founded Grow Palmer, a public food program that plants edible gardens around town. These days, Ms. Newman is pondering retirement. …

“Jennifer T. Sharrock is just starting out. She left an insurance career this year to pursue market farming and permaculture full time through her Seeds and Soil Farm. The beginning farmer began teaching permaculture design three years ago, but her popular classes quickly outgrew her space. Buying more land wasn’t financially feasible.

“So she placed an ad in Alaska Farmland Trust’s FarmLink program, a kind of ‘dating service’ for land seekers and owners. When Ms. Sharrock received an answer to her ad, her heart skipped a beat. She saw it was from Ms. Newman, whom she’d met through Grow Palmer. They also turned out to be neighbors.

“ ‘It’s a match made in heaven,’ said Ms. Sharrock, who has started on four acres of Ms. Newman’s property.”

The two women’s agreement is unlike other FarmLink arrangements.

” ‘There’s actually no money changing hands,’ says Ms. Newman, who calls the younger farmer’s regenerative agriculture plan ‘the best stewardship possible.’ …

“Land-link pairings like the one in Palmer represent one possible step toward solving a nationwide puzzle – how to help experienced farmers exit out of agriculture while building an on-ramp for new producers.

” ‘I get a sense there are more young people who don’t necessarily have farm backgrounds, who are taking agriculture entrepreneur courses, and they are starting to jump into farming,’ says Jim MacDonald, an economist at the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

“Along with access to capital, access to land is one of the greatest hurdles faced by beginning producers in the United States. One sign of the barriers to entry: The average U.S. farmer’s age has taken a long-term climb over the past several decades, now reaching 57.5, according to the USDA’s latest census figures. While there has been some increase in the number of producers under age 35 – partly due to how the census now defines them – this group remains vastly outnumbered. …

” ‘As someone retires, that’s an opportunity for two or three other young people. There’s no shortage of people that want to farm,’ says Michael Langemeier, an agricultural economics professor at Purdue University in Indiana. …

“In Alaska, 46% of the state’s producers are beginners – the largest share of any state. Amy Pettit, executive director of Alaska Farmland Trust, says the demand for more locally grown food is one of the factors pulling new farmers north. …

“But buying land for many new farmers remains out of reach. … Land availability is another concern. ..

“ ‘There is a sense of urgency,’ says Tim Biello, who coordinates the Hudson Valley Farmlink Network in New York. ‘The history of our use of agricultural lands suggests that we’re not getting more.’ …

“Launched by the American Farmland Trust, Hudson Valley Farmlink Network is among the most active, with 175 matches since 2014. Mr. Biello, the network’s coordinator, attributes the success to individual attention and relying on the localized expertise of 17 partner organizations. …

“Mr. Biello says that matches shouldn’t be the only metric for measuring a land-link program’s impact. He points instead to the trainings, events, and one-on-one assistance that have reached more than 10,000 farmers and farmland owners. …

“Ms. Newman hopes the new farmer will remain on the land long term.

“ ‘I just can’t wait to see this evolve,’ says Ms. Newman. ‘It’s the most exciting thing that’s happened on the property since our alpacas left.’ ”

More here.

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Good news for Letterbox Farm Collective in New York State! The environmental nonprofit Scenic Hudson’s interest in protecting a Hudson River tributary has enabled the young farmers to purchase land.

Scenic Hudson’s Jay Burgess writes, “Scenic Hudson has acquired a conservation easement protecting 62 acres of productive farm fields and watershed lands in Greenport, just south of the City of Hudson. The easement’s purchase enabled a group of young farmers who had been leasing the property to purchase it, securing the future of their farm operations.

“Known as the Letterbox Farm Collective, the farm partners supply specialty vegetables, herbs, pork, poultry, rabbits and eggs to a variety of regional and New York City markets — local bakeries and food trucks, many restaurants (including New York City’s renowned Momofuku restaurants) and two farmers’ markets. In the spring the farmers will launch a diversified Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) operation. …

“ ‘Achieving the goal of Scenic Hudson’s Foodshed Conservation Plan — meeting the growing demand for fresh, local food in the Hudson Valley and New York City — depends on successful partnerships like this, which provides a stable base of operations for the dedicated young farmers in the Letterbox Farm Collective. We also thank these farmers for enabling a future public access point to our protected lands along South Bay Creek, which present exciting opportunities for Hudson residents and visitors to enjoy the outdoors,’ said Steve Rosenberg, executive director of The Scenic Hudson Land Trust. …

“ ‘We were lucky to have Scenic Hudson with us while we gathered our financing and at the closing table when the moment came and we were able to buy our land,” said Letterbox’s Faith Gilbert.” More here.

Thanks to Sandy and Pat for letting me know and congrats to their niece for being successfully launched in farming.

Photo: Nathaniel Nardi-Cyrus

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I have written a few times about young people who commit themselves to a life of farming. At National Public Radio, Jennifer Mitchell explains why Northern New England states like Maine are particularly attractive to beginning farmers.

“On a windy hillside just a few miles from Maine’s rocky mid-coast, it’s 10 degrees; snow is crunching underfoot. Hairy highland cattle munch on flakes of hay and native Katahdin sheep are mustered in a white pool just outside the fence. Not far away, heritage chickens scuttle about a mobile poultry house that looks a bit like a Conestoga wagon.

“Marya Gelvosa, majored in English literature and has never lived out in the country before. ‘Just a few years ago, if you’d told me that I was going to be a farmer, I would have probably laughed at you,’ she says.

“But Gelvosa and her partner, Josh Gerritsen, a New York City photographer, have thrown all their resources into this farm, where they provide a small local base of customers with beef, lamb and heritage poultry. Gerritsen says their livelihood now ties them to a community. …

” ‘It’s very fulfilling work,’ Gelvosa says, ‘and noble work.’ …

“In Maine, farmers under the age of 35 have increased by 40 percent, says John Rebar, executive director of the University of Maine Cooperative Extension: ‘Nationally, that increase is 1.5 percent.’

“And young farmers are being drawn to other rural Northeastern states as well, he says. Maine, New Hampshire and Vermont were all hotbeds of activity during the previous back-to-the-land movement of the 1970s. Many of those pioneers stayed and helped create farming and gardening organizations that now offer support and encouragement for new farmers. …

“Sparsely developed states like Maine still possess affordable lands, which savvy young farmers with a little money — and a lot of elbow grease — are starting to acquire.” Read all about it here.

Photo: Josh Gerritsen/Donkey Universe Farm
Marya Gelvosa and Josh Gerritsen run a small farm on Maine’s rocky mid-coast, providing their local community with beef, lamb and heritage poultry.

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I’ve written a couple times about Sandy and Pat’s niece, who graduated from Sarah Lawrence College and went into farming in a serious way. My most recent post is here.

On Saturday, Sandy and Pat went to Letterbox Farm in Hudson, New York, to see their niece and enjoy a magnificent farm-to-table spread.

The original invitation said, “The meal is in motion.  Meats from the farm are curing in Ko’s kitchen.  Our beekeeper is spinning honey from the combs, and the blue corn is waiting at the mill.  Will you join us in the fields for an incredible feast?

“The culinary team at Momofuku Ko joins the Letterbox farmers to host a celebratory evening of dinner and drinks.

“The night begins with farm-made sodas and cocktails in the garden, complete with bar snacks and live music.  In our silent auction, guests can bid for offerings from bee hive installations to garden consultations or a night on the town, provided by farmers and friends.  Before dusk arrives, we will move to the hillsides for dinner and sunset views of the Catskill Mountains.

“All proceeds from this event go to support the farm as it puts down permanent roots on new land.”

I wish I could show you all the wonderful photos of the event I just received, but I think you’ll enjoy this sampling. Note the roasted beets on greens and the elegant pork, marinated for two weeks in a marinade featuring sumac.

Photos: Sandra M. Kelly

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Every couple weeks, it seems, I read another story about young people taking up farming. It is not an easy thing to do.

This photographer couple is getting started by attending Farm School in Athol, Mass. They also are recording their progress on a website called Plough & Stars.

“Dina Rudick has worked as a staff photographer and videographer for the Boston Globe for 10 years. … Dina is also an adjunct faculty member at Boston University’s School of Journalism and has worked as a media consultant and media trainer … Her work can be seen at www.dinarudick.com.

“Erik Jacobs is also an award winning photographer …  A selection of his editorial work can be seen at www.JacobsPhotographic.us.

“Together, Erik and Dina also run a boutique video production company called Anthem Multimedia.”

But they want to be farmers.

Here is a bit of their blogging about Farm School:

“We’re six weeks into life at Maggie’s and already we’ve established steady working relationships with the all animals on our farm.  We lead cows to fresh pasture daily and pull fresh eggs out from under broody hens.  We try to our best to keep the peace with Mr. Marbles the pushy ram and I’ve even grown accustomed to the regular mouse fiestas inside my bedroom walls.” You can follow their adventures here.

A blog is not exactly run of the mill when written by award-winning photographers. Their pictures are fantastic.

P.S. Here is a past post I wrote on the young-farmer trend.

Photograph at http://ploughandstarsproject.com/we-are/

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Photograph: Leah Nash for the NY Times
Tyler and Alicia Jones on their farm in Corvallis, Ore.

I’ve blogged before about young people who are attracted to farming. Here, I wrote about a friend’s great niece raising organic chickens on a farm in Connecticut.

At the same time, I have been reading about the phenomenon. For example, Dawn Thilmany and S. Sureshwaran wrote in a publication called Choices about “Innovations to Support Beginning Farmers and Ranchers.” And the USDA has increased the numbers of programs they have for beginners.

Recently, Isolde Raftery wrote in the NY Times about a young farming couple in Corvallis, Oregon.

“For years, Tyler Jones, a livestock farmer,” Raftery wrote, “avoided telling his grandfather how disillusioned he had become with industrial farming.

“After all, his grandfather had worked closely with Earl L. Butz, the former federal secretary of agriculture who was known for saying, ‘Get big or get out.’

“But several weeks before his grandfather died, Mr. Jones broached the subject. His grandfather surprised him. ‘You have to fix what Earl and I messed up,’ Mr. Jones said his grandfather told him.

“Now, Mr. Jones, 30, and his wife, Alicia, 27, are among an emerging group of people in their 20s and 30s who have chosen farming as a career. Many shun industrial, mechanized farming and list punk rock, Karl Marx and the food journalist Michael Pollan as their influences. The Joneses say they and their peers are succeeding because of Oregon’s farmer-foodie culture, which demands grass-fed and pasture-raised meats. …

“Garry Stephenson, coordinator of the Small Farms Program at Oregon State University, said he had not seen so much interest among young people in decades. ‘It’s kind of exciting,’ Mr. Stephenson said. ‘They’re young, they’re energetic and idealist, and they’re willing to make the sacrifices.’ ” Read more.

Check out the National Young Farmers Coalition, here.

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My friend’s great niece doesn’t come from professional farmers, but the gardening gene goes back at least to her Italian great grandfather. Now, having graduated from a liberal arts college and worked for various park services, she is — like a surprising number of young people today — going into farming.

At a farm blog, she describes raising organic chickens in Connecticut.

“Hi! Nichki and Laz from The Wooly Pig here, taking over the Barberry Hill Farm blog for an entry!

“We are young aspiring CT farmers who were lucky enough to meet Kelly and Kingsley last March and over the past several months they have become our good friends and farming mentors. This fall, the Goddards have been so kind as to lend us their pasture and their expertise so that we can raise our very first batch of chickens for our community.

“Our birds are pasture raised, which means they are brought up outdoors with plenty of access to fresh vegetation, open air, and sunlight.

“They are fed a strictly organic diet — an added cost for us that we feel is a worthwhile investment in our customers’ health. …

“We can’t thank our customers enough for supporting local, sustainable agriculture. Your good decisions help build strong, healthy communities right here in Connecticut. …

“For more information on our chickens, please contact us by email at TheWoolyPig@gmail.com.”

Read the engaging Barberry Hill Farm blog here. And if you live near Madison, Connecticut, get your chickens from The Wooly Pig

Photograph from http://www.barberryhillfarm.com.

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