Looking for a well-rounded training in organic farming? Have military service? The Rodale Institue and the Delware Valley University partner together to create a 36-credit certificate program in organic agriculture. Formatted specifically for veterans who are interested in agriculture, the program is also open to interested civilians. The program spans one year and offers a balance of classroom work and field training in animal science, marketing, vegetable production, organic crop science, entomology, weed management and sustainable agriculture. To Learn more about the Organic Farming Certificate Program and other opportunities for veterans at Rodale Institute, visit rodaleinstitute.org/veterans.
Listen to the podcast here!
Ben Dobson grew up in Hillsdale, New York, on a small organic farm and started his first agricultural business in 2001. After two years on his own, he joined forces with his father Ted Dobson and managed the fields at his salad and tomato farm in Sheffield, MA, from 2003 through 2006. Since then Ben has started, managed, and overseen the sale of two agricultural businesses: One of which, Atlantic Organics, founded in 2007, was the largest organic vegetable farm in the state of Maine. The other, a company called Locally Known LLC, founded in 2008, was a salad processing company that sold pre-packaged ready to eat salads to Whole Foods Market, Hannaford Bros. and Trader Joe’s supermarkets in the Northeast and Mid Atlantic regions.
In 2013, Ben joined Stone House Farm as the Organic Transition Manager, and in 2016 he became their Farm Manager. He planned and oversaw the implementation of an organic transition on the 2,200-acre Stone House Farm property, and developed a non-GMO feed and grain business to sell their grain. The farm is now expanding its grain operation to include organic grain from other farms in the region.
Ben also heads Hudson Carbon: a research project conducting long term research across several sites on Stone House Farm and two neighboring farms. Hudson Carbon monitors the economic impacts and ecological effects of organic farming systems regarding carbon sequestration. Collaborators in this project include the Rodale Institute, The Woods Hole Marine Biological Laboratory, and Scenic Hudson. This winter Hudson Carbon will be launching a website with sections dedicated to farmers, science, and the public.
From the regional organic farmer associations to the Organic Trade Association to NYFC to your humble Greenhorns here, there sure are a lot of associations composed of or supposedly representing farmers. So maybe you’re asking, do we really need another one?
Well, first thing to consider here is that there is actually no national organization that represents only organic farmers. The second thing to consider might be the recent failures to pass adequate GMO labeling legislation in congress. We’re wondering if the entry of another national player might change the field of agricultural policy. Does this mark a shift in the organic/sustainable ag movement in which organic farmers more seriously set their sights on federal policy?
Use the comments section to weight in! And maybe consider joining.
“We have a tremendous opportunity to bring organic farmers’ voices and their experience with agriculture to policymakers in Washington, D.C.,” said Kucinich. “Policymakers have not yet grasped the significance of organic agriculture for resilient, reliable, non-toxic food production, and its ability to mitigate climate change while restoring our nation’s soil health. We have an opportunity to benefit organic farmers, while positively impacting our nation’s health and mitigating our climate crisis.”
Each day he walks ten miles, on a journey from the Rodale Institute in Kutztown, PA to Washington, DC. Along the way, he has had the honor of meeting with farmers, local public officials, community members, students and activists. Every person he meets is impacted by the effects of climate change. From the disastrous hail storm that occurred in Reading, PA in May to the local fisherman and their concern that Atrazine was found in spawning beds of small mouth bass in the Susquehanna River. Climate change affects us all and the impact and destruction caused by catastrophic weather events is more noticeable with each passing year.
Along the way, he continues to tell people that climate change is a gift. This is Mother Nature’s way of letting us know that she is sick. We have broken our ecological systems and only we can fix it. He has data that proves that a global transition to regenerative organic agriculture can reverse climate change.
To learn more about Mark’s delivery of this data to Washington DC and how you can help, click HERE!
Severine von Tscharner Fleming and The Greenhorns are promoting, recruiting and supporting young farmers–and having a whole lot of fun along the way.
By Amanda Kimble-Evans
Severine von Tscharner Fleming is a Pied Piper of sorts–joyfully leading young people into farming–and her goals are lofty. She wants to throw the doors of the aging agricultural community open and reintegrate the next generation into the conversation. Although none of this sounds revolutionary, the survival and success of farming as a viable and attractive career path has been in doubt for decades. The recent rise in number of young farmers across the country is a sign of hope for the community. A sign von Tscharner has made the focus of the non-profit Greenhorns (www.thegreenhorns.net)
How did you get involved in agriculture?
I grew up spending summers on my family farm. I loved animals and plants but it was all very abstract. In college, I was part of the founding of the organic farm at Pomona College. Pomona is the goddess of the orchard and apples, but down there it was citrus. We were growing citrus, guavas and a lot of things that just don’t grow elsewhere in the United States. It was like magic. You put something in the ground, water it, and grows, like, 10 feet.
I eventually dropped out of college to farm, focusing on dairy initially, interning and apprenticing on farms across the United States and Switzerland. Then started my own farm with three partners (including my brother), but we lost our land last season when the owner broke our lease.
There is a lot of land drama for farmers, but especially young farmers. When you’re working with a resource that is really expensive and you don’t own it, you have a high level of vulnerability and instability.
Tell me about the Greenhorns.
We are a small non-profit, powered mostly by volunteers, working nationally to promote, recruit and support young farmers. We convene parties, workshop and events that are educational and celebrational because we believe we’re here to nurture but also to be joyful with the next generation in ag. Good business skills are incredibly important, but we really feel strongly that the energy and the camaraderie and the farmer-to-farmer relationships are just as important as farmer-to-mentor relationships.
The Greenhorns actually started as a film project about young farmers. It has taken us three years and $140,000 dollars to get this far and we’d like to bring the film out to the world. We’re showing the final rough cut to farmer audiences on the West Coast to make sure the film reflects their values and that the tone resonates. Over the winter we’ll knit those comments in and starting in January we’re hitting the ag conferences, colleges and schools with young farmer mixers.
It is time to ramp up for the Farm Bill and we want to get people to think about joining the agricultural community. We need more businesses and caring hands on the land. The only way to do this is to reach out and to figure out how to make policy changes so it is easier to succeed. So we’re campaigning to raise money for outreach—our goal is $15,000 by October 22nd.