Many people who support our farm do so because they want more then just great food. We believe it's important to clarify for our customers some of the less tangible things that their dollars are paying for.
What supporting us means...
We've still got a lot to learn! Which is one of the most exciting things about working in agriculture, you can be a student of the profession your entire working life. I'm reminded of this when I sign up for the MOSES organic farming conference each year. They ask you to specify your experience in farming and the first box you can check reads "beginning farmer (10 years or less)"! We've got a long way to go! This can feel as daunting as it does exciting, but discovery is a great motivation and a reward in itself. Supporting us means you're contributing to our education as farmers and professionals.
In much the same way agriculture also has a long way to go. We have some big challenges going forward. How do we grow good food while maintaining the environment around us? How do we build an agriculture that's resilient enough to withstand the climate shifts already underway? How do we meet the needs of an ever increasing human population? How can we pay ourselves well to farm? The list goes on and on. Depending on your outlook, this can again seem either daunting or exciting. We are not so naive as to think our little farm can solve all these big problems. But I do believe we can contribute. I do believe we can move the needle of progress in our corner of the world. I also believe that it's important to do so undaunted. We live in a time where farmers have an incredible opportunity to contribute (even more then normal) to their communities and the good of humanity. All of this can sound quite grandiose, but is in no way an exaggeration. It's an incredibly exciting time to be working in agriculture. Supporting us means you're furthering a larger effort to improve the future of agriculture.
On our farm specifically, we are working to find new ways to grow fruit organically and ecologically. Fruit production has it's own unique set of challenges. Sugar is a highly sought after form of energy in nature and the process of growing a fruit is complex. This complexity can be a vulnerability as there are many opportunities for problems along the way. Just ask anyone who has tried growing a tomato, pests and diseases can abound. These can be among the more challenging problems to face with the organic farmers typical tool kit. But there are strategies that can be deployed and we are setting out to find solutions for the pests and diseases that persist in our region. There are certainly others in our area having success and we want to contribute to the growing pool of knowledge that will make fruit production a bigger presence in our local agriculture. Supporting us means you're contributing to our local agricultural wisdom.
We are also interested in exploring new methods of production and marketing that can make small scale fruit production a more replicable model for future farmers. There simply aren't a lot of people marketing their fruit to consumers as a CSA share. I've watched the CSA model become a very powerful outlet for organic producers and consumers of vegetables. I think fruit producers partnering with local vegetable CSA's could prove to be a great way to bring fruit production into the fold. This has the potential to produce a winning outcome for fruit producers, vegetable CSA's and local consumers. We intend to test the feasibility of this model through our own marketing. Supporting us means you're furthering the reach of fruit production in our local community.
Lastly we plan to make education a key component of our mission. I am quite the opposite of an extrovert, a quiet life on the farm suits me very well! So you shouldn't expect to see me on the Ag lecture circuit anytime soon! That being said, I think educating and training tomorrows farmers is a hugely important part of what our generation of growers needs to be doing. The average age of the american farmer (most recent figure I've seen said 58.3) is startlingly close to the average age of retirement in our country (63 in the latest census). Demographic issues like this are complicated things, there are a lot of factors, but I think that there are two important take away's from these figures: 1) We need more farmers, specifically young farmers. 2) In order to keep people farming, farmers need to be able to make a living farming. I've benefited first hand from an Agricultural Internship, a Land Stewardship Project Farm Beginnings course, Educational AG conferences, MN Extension and a whole host of new Ag media resources. They are all important and helpful, but I think far and away, an internship is the most powerful tool we have to educate new farmers. That's why I plan to carefully document our own learning process so we can offer a very well rounded internship program in future years on the farm. I want interns to have an experience that amounts to a hands on season long course in fruit farming. The program should be an introduction to as much as possible, from agricultural philosophy, details of production, plant botany, soil science, business and marketing, machine maintenance and more. Since you can't possibly learn all this in a season (or a lifetime), it will also be important to send interns with as many resources as possible, to guide them going forward. This is a goal that is a little ways off in the future. As I mentioned earlier we still have a lot to learn ourselves and our business must grow and be on solid footing for such a program to succeed. Compiling resources and information that will later serve the program is never the less a part of the work we are doing now on the farm. Supporting us means furthering the education of tomorrows farmers.