Saturday, March 29, 2008

A Little Something to Listen To...

It's going to be a short post this weekend. Life is getting really crazy now with my job, my other job coaching girl's soccer, my other job trying to become a farmer, and my other job (the most important job) being a husband and a father! Oh yeah, and we are trying to build a farm from scratch ... but, I'll give some more updates on that next week. For today I just want to throw out some links that I found after a friend e-mailed me a link to an interview from Minnesota Public Radio.

First of all, here is the link to the interview on MPR - CLICK HERE - You will have to find the link to the audio on that page. There are actually two people interviewed. Will Allen who runs an organization that promotes and helps build urban gardens and Audrey Arner who is on the steering committee of the Land Stewardship Project's Farm Beginnings program. I'm just finishing up listening to the interview now and it is pretty cool. I wish I was closer to Minnesota so that I could to take that class.

Here are the other interesting links you need to check out in conjunction with the MPR interview.

-First of all check out the Land Stewardship Project's Farm Beginnings.

-Next you can surf over to Audrey Arner's farm, Moonstone Farm.

-Finally, if you want to learn more about Moonstone Farm you need to check out an article from New Farm titled, "Farm, Food and Family" from a few years ago.

One last thing from the interview. Mr. Allen mentioned that the average farmer is over the age of 60 years old now ... meaning we need to be thinking about where our next generation of farmers are going to come from. That is of interest to me because earlier this week I put a "rant" (they wanted to know what I didn't like about farming) on my epi-log. One of the things I mentioned that frustrated me was the farmers that said they wanted to help younger farmers, but didn't follow through by sharing opportunities and knowledge. You can read my post here. One comment I received was from someone who grew up (and I just noticed I had another "farms are bad" comment) on a farm and said that their dad didn't have time to help or teach someone after all of the work. But, how then should farming be shared?

**Okay, one more last thing ... If you have made it this farm, I would like your thoughts on this comment from the epi-log post I mentioned:

I see what you are saying about the "younger" farmer. However, I would have to agree with the previous comment about why someone would encourage another to get into farming. I myself grew up on a farm and saw first hand the work and toil we put in for the very minimal return. Farming is your life, not your occupation. As a kid I was never in any extracurricular activities b/c I had to be home to "do chores." My dad was always late (if he even showed up) for any Christmas programs b/c they were usually during milking time. My dad who is now 51 has a body of an 80 year old. He's had multiple bones broken, shattered, pitch forks stuck in extremities, you name it. I told myself I would NEVER live on a farm. However, just before I left for college, my dad tried talking me out of it and staying on the farm. I couldn't believe what I was hearing. I'm thankful that I didn't listen to him and did continue my education. My father as of recent threw in the towel and has now turned his "farm" into a winery. My husband and I dabble in forms of farming. We raise pigs and sheep. No milking for me, but you are right, farming is an art, but I have made it my "side job" as a way to provide healthy food for my family. I would say that the best advice that someone could give the "younger folk" would be to learn to live off the land. Not profit from it, but sustain your way of life.


Rich said...

One of the difficulties with "older" established farmers passing their knowledge and experience to the next generation of farmers is their relationships and ties to their farmland.

When I think of our farm I almost think of it as a living being, it has a long history with my family, and I almost feel that I belong to it rather than it belongs to me.

Everyday, I see the handiwork of my great-grandparents, grandparents, and parents. One of them built that fence there, one laid out that field, one built that pond, all of them cut hay in this hay meadow, etc.

After my grandfather could no longer farm, the farm was rented to a neighbor. He was a reasonably good farmer, but he had no history with the property. He farmed in the manner he used on his own property, which wasn't wrong, it was just different. The farm wasn't the same, and at times, it was almost painful to me to observe the differences.

Now that I am farming it, I see the farm as an extension of my grandfathers' lifework, and I recognize the responsibility I hold in continuing this work. Now more than ever before, I belong to it , it doesn't belong to me. It would be extremely difficult to hand over this responsibility to anyone else, regardless of their qualifications or desire. It is almost physically painful to end a relationship with a piece of land.

I think many "older" farmers hold a similar feeling about the land they have worked for a good portion of their lives, and it can be hard to hand the responsibility over to the next generation.

Ethan Book said...

Rich - I agree with everything you say! That is why I think it is critical for older farmers (who don't have a family member or who do) to take younger farmers alongside of them so that the land can continue to be farmed in a special and "artful" way. That is how I think you pass it on.

The other option is to hold on until you can't do anything anymore and then rent it to the neighbor only to be disappointed by their farming practices.

Just my thoughts...

farm mama said...

We never truly own the land, we are simply stewards of the land for whatever time we occupy it during our lifetime. The highest and best use of any piece of land is to sustain the (temporary)owner in some fashion, whether it be to produce income or to produce the actual food that the owner eats. A critical factor in the relationship with the land and the landowner needs to be that the land is left in as good as, or preferably better condition as when the current relationship started. Unfortunately, that fact is often overlooked today. The land was here long before we existed and will be here long after we are gone. In an ideal world, all landowners would have a personal and passionate relationships with their land. Unfortunately, that ongoing link has been broken in many cases, leaving older farmers with no one who loves their land, and young people who long to forge that connection, but without the opportunity or the knowledge. I don't know the answer to the problem, but believe that it is important for each of us to do whatever we can, even if it is as small as planting a garden in our backyard, and seeking out local farmers to buy directly from.

Mellifera said...

I think I got lucky... I put an ad in "Rural Heritage" looking for somebody to show me how to drive horses and put up fence. Sure enough, we found somebody and it's working out pretty well for both of us.

I think what helped it work was the horse-farming angle. Folks who are into that will do anything to pass it on. And in the meantime, he's still got tractors for most of the work so I'm still learning how to work them too.

Steven said...

That's awesome! There's no better way than learning from someone else. Then, just like learning how to roller skate, the more you do it, the more comfortable you are and the less you think about what you're hands are doing.

Mellifera said...

Yeah, it is pretty cool. Although now I'm all pregnant and barfy and not all that good at putting up fences... we're currently on farmwork hiatus. : ) (Baby of as-yet-unspecified gender due in October! More information when available...)

Ethan Book said...

That is a pretty neat deal you were able to find Mellifera, and all you had to do was ask! That is a trap that we fall into sometimes, thinking that there isn't help ... I know I fall into it from time to time. But, here in Iowa the Practical Farmers of Iowa organization helps fill that gap.

Also, congratulations on the impending new farmer! That is exciting news.

Mellifera said...

Thanks! I like to think of this as the first step towards building our future farm: acquiring labor. (Ugh. Worst pun ever. Sorry. :D)

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