A few years back I wrote a few essays based on a reaction to several frustrating encounters with family, friends and neighbors and their views/perception of farming as a career option.
“The Art of Farming” and “Creating a Purposeful Life” offer a response and a solution of how we farmers can perhaps change the views of these people. They, like us, are well educated, but, unlike us un-educated in the reality of the fact that without farmers or laborers (as they called it) our food, open space and freedom as we know it will change drastically.
Making a change
If encouragement doesn’t happen for the next generation to carry on the trade, farms in the outskirts of populous areas, speckled amongst communities and in our vast countryside will be gone.
I chose to be a farmer through choice. The opportunity fit in with the lifestyle I had envisioned for myself and offered a diversity that would help keep my body and mind stimulated. Farming doesn’t just have to be about hard physical labor. Nezinscot Farm was created to be a place where every turn that is made on the farm presents a different picture. Whether its in the goat dairy barn with suspended angora rabbit cages, to the hops covered entrance to one of the greenhouses, to the small vineyard nestled in the back of the permaculture/biodynamic based gardens, to the seasonal animals peppered in various pasture-based paddocks and to the farm store; where it all comes together to create our home. A home that opens its doors to people of all walks of life with no judgment of character, race or ethnicity.
I feel it is one of my duties while living here at Nezinscot to continue to make strides on my farm to educate, encourage, and promote the lifestyle that I have chosen.
Food Security – It’s a growing issue
Recently, I was asked to speak to a group of philanthropists in a nearby community with a proposal in mind to help fund a particular project I was working on. When I stepped up to the front to begin talking, I realized that I, rather than they, should have been in the audience and not the one up front talking. I began my talk, not with the hopes of intriguing an individual to bite at the idea of funding one of my projects, but rather asking the audience “how important is it to all of you that I and other farmers in this state continue to produce food?” “What value does productive farmland have?”
I may have suggested in a roundabout way that perhaps I, and the other farmers present, should be the ones sitting in the audience and they up front talking and asking us what they could do to have the same sense of food security as we do.
Farming is a solution
The solution is to encourage them and their peers to participate in the support of a local food coop. Food production and security, like farming, is a year-round endeavor. Requires constant planning, preserving, marketing, handling, etc…. Farmers can’t do it all by themselves and not all farmers are fortunate to have a retail outlet like Nezinscot where a great deal of their food can be either sold, processed and or preserved. The reality is that numerous small food coops are, like the animals mentioned earlier, peppered in and around small communities who share the same values as farmers in helping to maintain and bring about a sense of food security to its members. These food coops, unlike the larger chain stores, have gone above and beyond in helping to source and support local food producers; allowing many of us an additional outlet for our products throughout the entire year. It is at these coops that people need to be shopping at. By doing this, you are all in a roundabout way helping to preserve farmland and hence the farmers that are working it.
At the end of the afternoon, the head of the organization I spoke for asked why I chose not to talk about my initial idea of funding. Perception and reality I said. My husband and I just closed on a third farm last month. The second in two years. The perception is that we must be making lots of money and don’t need help. Reality is, we had been leasing both farms for over ten years and that a unique opportunity was given to us to purchase both through the assistance of a Maine based land trust company. The security for us, our kids and the communities surrounding these farms is that this land will always be kept as farms (“Forever Farms”)
A reality check
The reality is that without the ability to continue to have these two farms for our use, we would not be able to stay in the organic dairy industry and do what we are doing. The reality is that we are land rich and even more money poor. Now, more than ever, I am motivated to create a new space on these other two farms, as I did at Nezinscot, with the idea of changing peoples perception of farmers and the importance of getting involved in the food that you purchase; all while thinking outside the box to make these farms pay for themselves.
“So, God Made a Farmer”—- written by Paul Harvey will continue to be one of my favorite poems to read and more so to listen to him read it.
Even though the poem reflects a farmers life gone by, the message continues to be a strong one. That we need farmers to do those things that most people can’t and won’t do with the mindset of getting things done.
Perhaps, however, a new ending to the poem would be suggested to catch up with the time; ending the poem with the son and daughter both wanting to spend their life doing what Mom and Dad do.