Debbie Weingarten and Audra Mulkern, December 19th 2017, The Guardian
Despite the fact that women have alwaysfarmed, they have been left out of our agricultural narrative. An incomplete story has real consequences: women have been left off land titles and bank documents; they have been denied federal loans and training opportunities; and until the 1982 census of agriculture, female farmers were not counted at all.
Those of us lucky enough to be at the NOFA Mass Winter Conference this year were privileged to see Elizabeth and Paul Kaiser of Singing Frogs Farm in Sebastopol, CA give this Keynote speech. You’ve never seen no-till farming look this easy or this sensical. Skip to minute 27 to see my favorite part: 45 minutes of bed changeover condensed in a 45 second time lapse video.
Greenhorns! It’s no secret that the National Young Farmers Coalition goes to Herculean efforts for young farmers across the country, from fighting lobbyists from big ag to make sure the farm bill addresses the needs of small farmers to advocating their chaps off for farmer student loan forgiveness programs. Now, it’s time to help them help you!
This year, like they do every five years, NYFC conducts their National Young Farmers survey in order to understand and elevate the issues that matter most to young farmers and aspiring farmers. The result of this survey help to define the organization’s policy goals and agenda. Since they launched the survey website a couple of weeks ago, a couple of thousand farmers have taken the survey, but they still need 3,000 more respondents to reach their goal of 5,000. Let’s go!
Young farmers and ranchers – what are the issues that matter most to you? What policy changes could help your business succeed? Take the National Young Farmers Survey today and let the nation know that FarmersCount! www.youngfarmers.org/survey
The Greenhorns, a nonprofit dedicated to young agrarians, is updating one of America’s oldest ag publications.
(Photo: Getty Images)
Long before Martha Stewart printed her seasonal gardening chores on the first pages in each issue of Martha Stewart Living, The Old Farmer’s Almanac outlined the farm-related tasks for any given month in a not dissimilar tone.
“Milch cows should receive especial attention at this season. Do not let them—or, in fact, any of the cattle—stay out too much in the cold, raw wind,” advises The Old Farmer’s Almanac from March 1892. As for the rest of the month, “This is a good time to decide which crops you had better plant; those which are best adapted to your soil, of course, should be the ones.”
However bossy, The Old Farmer’s Almanac is still a beloved and trusted guide—my grandparents kept a copy in the TV room of their farmhouse long after their own milch cows were sold, and my stepfather tucks the annual volume on the dictionary stand in his. But the folksy mix of weather forecasts, planting advice, astronomical and astrological data, recipes, and various articles (the 2017 edition includes a story titled “How to Woo on the Web”) has a very particular audience.
“Our mission is to promote the next generation of young agrarians, and we do that through mixed media,” said Laura del Campo, director of The Greenhorns, a grassroots nonprofit devoted to recruiting, promoting, and supporting a new generation of young farmers. A new take on The Old Farmer’s Almanac—called, rightly, The New Farmer’s Almanac—is one of the organization’s catalyzing contributions to the conversation about where agriculture is headed in the next 20 years. The upcoming issue—which was just bumped from this month to December, giving you extra time to add it to your Black Friday or Cyber Monday gift-shopping list—is focused on the notion of the commons as it relates to agriculture.
And if The Old Farmer’s Almanac seems old-fashioned—it was founded in 1792—that’s not the half of it.
“The almanac as a form is actually much older than The Old Farmer’s Almanac,” said The New Farmer’s Almanac Vol. III lead editor, Nina Pick. There is, for example, the Babylonian Almanac, which dates back to the first millennium BCE and detailed the relative auspiciousness of each day of the year for any endeavor of ordinary life—including activities related to food, health, travel, and business. In the first century ACE, Greek writer Ptolemy connected celestial movements with future weather patterns. By the Middle Ages, people saw little difference between predicting the movements of the stars and tides and predicting the future for purposes of divination. In other words, you could read your horoscope in medieval almanacs—just as you can today.
The New Farmer’s Almanac engages with an ancient form by including these traditional elements while also pushing ahead into new territory.
Pick said the new publication is “drawing on a very old, traditional form, and while keeping the integrity of this old form, we’re also radicalizing it—bringing in ideas that are more revolutionary, more radical—to have these conversations with a new agrarian movement.”
Contributions come from farmers young and old, activists, economists, poets, ecologists, and a former Russian literature professor. One contributor, Elizabeth Henderson, has been an organic farmer since 1980 and is two weeks away from celebrating the end of her 28th season at Peacework Organic CSA—which she says is the oldest CSA in New York State north of Long Island. She has contributed to The New Farmer’s Almanac for two years, and the latest volume includes two more of her essays: one on GMOs and another on raising the minimum wage for farmworkers.
“My position is that if we want to have an agriculture that is worth sustaining we have to find a way to pay the people who work on our farms living wages—not just minimum wage—so it’s a respected profession that people are anxious to get into,” she said.
There is a strong anti-GMO theme running throughout the volume, Pick said, and support of local and alternative economies. Henderson, for her part, said she has been able to sustain her farm for so many years by building and relying on networks of social capital. The members of Peacework, for example, contributed money to the Genesee Land Trust to purchase the farm’s land.
“That’s what we need to build—cooperation and a solidarity economy,” she said. “Because the regular capitalist marketplace isn’t paying us enough.”
In addition to expert essays and practical illustrations of lunar cycles, what makes the almanac so unique as a form is how it also makes space for beauty, as well as the ineffable qualities of life captured most compellingly in art. This, too, is radical, Pick said.
“Drawing attention to presence, to the movement of seasons, to land, to seeds, to the beautiful details in nature is a radical action in a cultural moment that is completely dominated by screens and lack of presence, lack of commitment to nature, lack of intimacy with place and with earth,” she said.
Poet Douglass DeCandia was eager to contribute to the third volume because “I feel that The New Farmer’s Almanac is giving voice to the people who are coming to agriculture to help heal the land, ourselves, and our communities.”
What the almanac as a form can do—and what The New Farmer’s Almanac does—is unite two distinct human needs between the covers of one book.
“It speaks to the part of us that needs to read poetry and see beautiful artwork as we’re sitting around the fire on a winter’s evening,” Pick said, “and the part of us that needs to know, ‘OK, I wonder when there’s going to be high tide on June 20? When is the moon going to be full in December? And where can I buy my seeds?’ ”
“The almanac, out of all the literary genres, offers this beautiful bridging of body and soul and a real integration of the two,” she said. “We can’t be here on Earth as one without the other.”
-Sarah McColl has written for Yahoo Food, Bon Appétit, and other publications. She’s based in Brooklyn, New York. This piece was created for Takepart, published on November 6, 2016.
Please join National Farmers Union December 5-8, 2016 for our FREE online
beginning farmer and rancher conference.
Growing for the Future is a unique online, interactive virtual conference
focused on beginning farmer and rancher issues, including: mentorship,
business planning, USDA programs women and veterans in farming, conservation
and much more!
The conference is completely online, and features farmer-to-farmer webinars,
live Q & A, a discussion board, a resource center and free giveaways! Register
now for free to join us in December for this unique opportunity!
Kiva and Greenhorns working together to help small farmers grow their businesses
Katrina and Keely, Founders of Tinyfield Farm in Brooklyn, NY
The Greenhorns and Kiva are working together to help farmers access the capital and customers they need to successfully grow their businesses. Over the next few months, The Greenhorns will host a series of articles and podcasts about how farmers can benefit from a 0% interest, crowdfunded loan from Kiva at various stages in their business’ lifecycle.
Imagine the perfect growing season for your farm. It’s probably a warm, sunny one and the frost stayed away long enough for you to complete your harvest. You’re popular at your farmers markets, always selling out, and your delivery van didn’t break down once! People are raving about your produce: they’re writing great reviews and are signing up for your CSA.
It’s the type of season that fills you with pride.
Now imagine a season where things start to go wrong. The weather takes a turn for the worse and a field gets flooded, your delivery van breaks down on the way to market, the birds are more numerous than usual and are destroying your food…The list goes on and on.
Running a farm can be a stressful affair, especially when it comes to dealing with uncertainty.
It doesn’t have to be that way.
Hundreds of farmers have found peace-of-mind by raising 0% interest capital for their businesses from Kiva, a nonprofit that supports U.S. entrepreneurs.
Since 2012, Kiva has helped hundreds of farmers raise over $2 million in funding – all without charging a single cent of interest or fees.
As a nonprofit, Kiva is dedicated to increasing access to capital for business owners who need it the most: people who are unable to raise money for their business from traditional sources, like banks.
With 8,000 small business loan applications rejected in the U.S. every day, more and more entrepreneurs are turning to alternative sources of financing, and Kiva is here to help.
Kiva is a crowdfunding platform like Indiegogo and Kickstarter, except instead of donations or purchases, the “crowd” makes 0% interest loans to entrepreneurs fundraising on the platform.
Kiva’s “crowd” is made up of 1.5 million supportive lenders around the world, many of whom lend locally and become business’ new customers, brand ambassadors and fans.
Like Indiegogo and Kickstarter, entrepreneurs create a campaign where they tell their story and why they’re raising money. Unlike Indiegogo and Kickstarter, entrepreneurs on Kiva have a 90% public funding success rate.
Even better, farmers have a 98% funding success rate on Kiva!
Over the next few months, The Greenhorns will post a series of articles and podcasts about how a Kiva loan can support at different stages in a farm’s lifecycle. These posts will be anchored in stories of real entrepreneurs, who have grown their business through Kiva.
Theo, Co-Owner of Helios Farms Liz, Co-Owner of Happy Hollow Farm
These entrepreneurs are people like Liz, co-owner ofHappy Hollow Farm, who borrowed $10,000 to build three high tunnels that extended her growing season; and Theo, co-owner of Helios Farms, who borrowed $5,000 to help purchase a refrigerated trailer to serve as a butcher shop and walk-in cooler.
More than just capital, Liz and Theo had 337 people from Kiva’s community lend to them! These entrepreneurs now have larger networks of people who believe in them and their businesses.
This is the power of Kiva. Kiva’s community of lenders truly believes in supporting small business owners and shows so by expecting only the money they lent in return for their investment.
Every farmer has their off-days, and Kiva is here to help them realize more perfect ones.
Check in again next week for a new story, and to learn more about Kiva, visit us.kiva.org/greenhorns or email questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.
America is facing a food crisis driven by profitability and a lack of consumer education. While the window to transforming our heartland continues to shrink, passionate individuals have emerged who provide hope that the health of our nation might still remain within our grasp. Sustainable is a documentary film that weaves together expert analysis of America’s food system with a powerful narrative of one extraordinary farmer who is determined to create a sustainable future for his community. In a region dominated by commodity crops, Marty Travis has managed to maintain a farming model that is both economically viable and environmentally safe. Through his example and various expert interviews, the film will explore options for reversing the issues facing America’s heartland.
I am not usually one to use this phrase, but this beautiful six-minute documentary on “why we farm” is literally the story of my life. And I bet it’ll resonate with you too! Watch: Age of The Farmer from Spencer MacDonald on Vimeo.
Most human endeavours, unless checked by public dissent, evolve into monocultures. Money seeks out a region’s comparative advantage—the field in which it competes most successfully—and promotes it to the exclusion of all else. Every landscape or seascape, if this process is loosed, performs just one function.
This greatly taxes the natural world. An aquifer might contain enough water to allow some farmers to grow alfalfa, but perhaps not all of them. A loch or bay or fjord might have room for wild salmon and a few salmon farms, but if too many cages are built, the parasites that infest them will overwhelm the wild fish. Many farmland birds can survive in a mixed landscape of pasture and arable crops, hedgerows and woodlands, but not in a boundless field of wheat or soybeans.
Some enthusiasts for rewilding see reserves of self-willed land as an exchange for featureless monocultures elsewhere. I believe that pockets of wild land—small in some places, large in others—should be accessible to everyone: no one should have to travel far to seek refuge from the ordered world…
…but I have to confess: I didn’t know what crofting meant either, and it’s way more inspiring than I’d imagined. Turns out, crofting is a system of land tenure unique to the Scottish countryside in which villages and communities share crofts— Continue reading →
Jaclyn Moyer, a small farmer and writer in Northern California, has an article at Salon on not getting by as a small farmer. She describes a situation familiar to many of us, that “90 percent of farmers in this country rely on an outside job, or a spouse’s outside job, or some independent form of wealth, for their primary income.”
Courtesy of the Farm Security Administration photo archive, Library of Congress.
“On the radio this morning I heard a story about the growing number of young people choosing to become farmers. The farmers in the story sounded a lot like me — in their late 20s to mid-30s, committed to organic practices, holding college degrees, and from middle-class non-farming backgrounds. Some raise animals or tend orchards. Others, like me, grow vegetables. The farmers’ days sounded long but fulfilling, drenched in sun and dirt. The story was uplifting, a nice antidote to the constant reports of industrial ag gone wrong, of pink slime and herbicide-resistant super-weeds.
What the reporter didn’t ask the young farmers was: Do you make a living? Can you afford rent, healthcare? Can you pay your labor a living wage? If the reporter had asked me these questions, I would have said no.” Read the rest of Jaclyn’s essay at Salon >>
We’d love to hear your comments on Jaclyn’s piece and your stories. How do you make farming work for you? Do you see outside employment as a long-term necessity or as temporary, a transition point from our modern day urban professions back to farming? What would most help you, as a new, small or someday-maybe farmer?