Marji Guyler-Alaniz has spent the last nine months documenting women farmers for her ongoing photography project, FarmHer.
“My goal is to capture the beauty in the every day and my style is to show who these women are through subtleties,” says the Iowa-based photographer. It’s an important goal at a time when the number of female farmers is on the rise, women now make up 30 percent of U.S. farmers, and many women are approaching this work in sustainable, creative, and mold-breaking ways. Read more
The word “teamster” carries meanings both modern and ancient. In current day usage, we associate the term with truck drivers moving freight, fuel, and food across the continent. Originally, a teamster was someone who drove a team of draft animals–typically horses, oxen and mules–to transport heavy loads by cart and for agricultural tillage. This practice dates back to 3000 B.C., originating in Mesopotamia (Iraq), Turkey, and Egypt.
Gina Wertz is a horse and ox teamster. Her animal-powered market vegetables and herbs are grown at Under the Stone Garden on the grounds of Tillers International, a Kalamazoo County working farm and learning center dedicated to the preservation and training of inexpensive methods of food production in rural areas around the world. Read more
If you’re up on sustainable farming, chances are good that you’ve heard of The Greenhorns. But, if by some chance you have not, let me fill you in. The non-profit organization was founded in 2007 by Severine von Tscharner Fleming with the primary goal of promoting and supporting the young farmer movement in America. Their first project, the eponymous documentary The Greenhorns brought attention to the plight of young farmers and introduced viewers to a myriad of grassroots endeavors. Through new media production, events, publications, workshops, and actual farming, The Greenhorns aim to organize, build, and bring attention to a network of budding agrarians. I’m happy to report that the latest Greenhorns project has arrived and it’s an impressive body of work that deserves some attention. The 2013 New Farmer’s Almanac is an adventure. Read more
In the Basque Country—an autonomous community in Northern Spain—the official unemployment rate for young people lingers around 40 percent, but some estimate it might be even higher. It’s a region where the steel and manufacturing industries once dominated, but have since faced huge declines. Finding a first-time career, or returning to an old one for that matter, is increasingly difficult. Read more
What do you get when you cross a U-pick and a CSA (community supported agriculture) membership? The Masumoto Family Farm adopt-a-tree program. For the last nine years, peach and nectarine lovers in California have filled out “adoption forms,” paid $600, and made the trip to this Fresno-based organic farm for two consecutive summer weekends to harvest between 350 to 450 pounds of fruit from their adopted tree. Read more
It’s a new day for those who have felt poorly served by California’s chief food and agriculture agency.
In a significant shift, an $18 million state-managed program that supports growers of vegetables, fruit and nuts is strengthening its focus on ecologically minded farmers and local, urban and healthy food programs.
New funding guidelines announced by the California Department of Food and Agriculture mark an important break from decades of mostly serving the interests of larger, conventional growers. Read more
“I used to be a faceless producer,” David Rowley said of his last job in conventional agriculture. “We grew two to three tons of tomatoes a week, starting in February. There were six people, no weeds, and no pests.”
At the end of 2000, three things happened that led this farmer from old school ag back to the older school of ag, and into organics and direct marketing. Fuel prices went through the roof, pushing energy costs for the Pennsylvania greenhouses from $15,000 a month to $45,000 a month. A change of management occurred, and most significantly, Rowley got ill and attributed it to pesticides. Read more
The University of Vermont’s Farmer Training Program, introduced in May 2011, is an intensive six-month program that aims to provide graduates with an education and support system that encourages them to create and maintain sustainable farms and food businesses. What distinguishes the program from typical farm apprenticeships, in addition to the application fee for enrollment, is the comprehensive exposure to different types of sustainable food industries in the food system, from a stint on a 500-member CSA farm to working for a smaller, specialty grower.
Civil Eats spoke to Robinson Yost, one of the current students in the program. After studying anti-colonial politics as an undergraduate student, he studied ecological building methods in New Mexico and participated in a reforestation project and low-impact living experiment in Southeast India. As a young farmer, Robinson is a telling example of the sort of unconventional backgrounds that many young farmers are bringing into the American food system. Read more
Starting a farm is not easy, a business in which high startup costs and a lack of available land for purchase or rent are obvious obstacles. As our nation’s farmers grow older–the average American farmer is 57–and we simultaneously undergo a shift towards reclaiming our food system, young and beginning farmers are stepping up. Government programs designed to help farmers have existed for many years, but much of this funding is only within reach of large-scale producers that have been in the business for many years. Several USDA programs are geared towards helping farms based on production, favoring commodity farmers and large-scale farmers, which keep these loans out of the hands of smaller start-ups.
But new opportunities are in development for young farmers. Read more
The California farming community is facing a demographic crisis. The average age of a California farmer is 58, and nearly 20 percent of them are 70 or older. As these farmers approach retirement, California needs to train new ones if we are to continue to feed our country and keep a healthy rural economy in the decades ahead. And with farm internships in California subject to strict labor laws, opportunities to get a hands-on farming education have become even fewer.
To help meet this need, the Center for Land-Based Learning in Winters, CA recently launched the California Farm Academy (CFA) to train beginning farmers in specialty crop production. Read more