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Learning to Farm

So how does  it happen that a healthcare executive and a stay at home dad become farmers?  One of the gurus of organic farming is Eliot Coleman. He is famous in the organic farming world for winter growing in Maine. He says you can become a farmer in three different ways:

  1. Work for another farmer and learn
  2. Read, Study and Research, go to workshops
  3. Dive right in and learn by doing

So we did all three.  I worked from April through December, 2011 at Many Hands Organic Farm in Barre, MA.  I was a volunteer shareholder one day a week.  Everything I learned I came home and implemented tactics on our farm operation.  I was very lucky to work with Julie Rawson and Jack Kittredge who have operated as an organic farm since the beginning of Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) era in the mid 80’s. Both Julie and Jack have also worked for the Northeast Organic Farming Association (NOFA) for decades. Julie is the Executive Director and Jack is in charge of policy.  I have been pleasantly surprised by the willingness of farmers to educate and help new farmers get started, Julie and Jack are a prime example of this generosity.   I am grateful I have farmers like them to go to for advice.

NOFA has also been a great source of education. We have attended numerous NOFA workshops this past year on CSAs, technical aspects of farming, practices, nutrient density techniques and raising chickens. I was so thrilled with NOFA, I accepted a board position with the organization, so you will hear more from me about all their exciting programs for consumers, backyard gardeners and farmers alike.

I just completed Tufts University New Entry Sustainable Farming Project Business Planning Course.  Massachusetts Department of Agriculture Resources also has had some very helpful workshops.  In addition, I have completed the Good Agricultural Practice (GAP) training  as part of my food safety education. We still have a great deal of learning to do and will continue to attend educational events throughout the year.

The dive right in part of learning to farm is the part we experienced last summer on our ¼ acre plot and the chapter we are entering now as we grow our acreage and our experience.