Recent Articles About Young Farmers Unite

Aubrey Fletcher knew she wanted to work on a dairy farm ever since she was a little girl.

“I do remember my mom asking, ‘Are you sure that’s what you want to do?’” Fletcher recalls.

Fletcher knew the work was tough, she grew up milking cows every day. After college she and her husband wanted to return to his family farm, but it wasn’t making financial sense.

“The farm couldn’t necessarily  provide both of us with salaries,” says Fletcher. “So we thought, ‘Why not take our premium milk and take that a little further?’”

The Fletchers started Edgewood Creamery outside of Springfield, Missouri, last August. They recently opened a storefront on the farm selling their milk and cheese.

Between the new business, milkings, feedings, and fixing things that need to get fixed, there is a lot to do.

“There’s always something to be done on the farm. And very rarely my house gets clean,” Fletcher says laughing.

Aubrey Fletcher is one of thousands of women stepping out of the shadows of the male-dominated farm world to take more leadership roles on the farm. In the past 15 years the fraction of women who are taking the lead has nearly tripled to about 15 percent of all U.S. farms. Nearly one-third of farms in this country are run by couples working together.

Despite the busy workload, Fletcher has been meeting regularly with a new group of women dairy farmers in her area. She says having a space to come together with other women has been huge.

“Because they can relate to you,” Fletcher says. “They understand that, ‘Oh, you had three calves this morning and you didn’t get your kids to school on time.’ They understand the struggles of being a dairy-farm-wife-slash-mom, and it’s easy to just talk to them about the struggles, and the good times.”

Women-Focused Extension Groups

Groups designed for farm women are not just about the social and emotional support. They serve an educational role as well.

Reagan Bluel, a dairy specialist for the University of Missouri Extension who runs the group of women dairy farmers in Southern Missouri, says she started it out of a growing need she was hearing from women in her area.

“This is another forum to gather information both from extension but also from their peers to see what is successful on those farms,” says Bluel.

The daily grind of agricultural work can make it hard for farmers to get off the farm, Bluel says.

It can be very isolating,” Bluel says. “And so sometimes it takes scheduling yourself to leave the farm.”

In the next few months she’ll program sessions about everything from calf-raising to stress management.

Many women are used to standing out at big farm shows or meetings, and that’s why Rebecca Connelly started a group for women in dairy in Pennsylvania.

“The role of women on farms has always been there it’s just now women are looking for more information off the farm.”

Connelly says women want more training, they’re seeking out more entrepreneurial opportunities like starting a creamery, and they’re trying to bring a competitive edge to their farm. They also see the value of networking on social media and through these groups. Connelly and her colleagues are organizing a national conference for women dairy workers this year so they can come together to learn from experts and each other.

“Women want to meet other women in agriculture,” Connelly says. “Sometimes they don’t necessarily get out there to see their neighbors or across counties. So this is a great way to meet other women in their area, as well as finding out more resources that are available to them.”

 

This article originally appeared on Harvest Public Media.

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Most Americans have never heard of permaculture. And although the approach is gaining traction among U.S. urbanites (full disclosure: I teach urban permaculture), ideas differ about exactly what it is. An environmental philosophy? An approach to ecological design? A particular set of farming practices?

Some new and beginning farmers are also becoming interested, as evidenced by a recent discussion on the role of permaculture in agriculture at a gathering organized by the California-based Farmer’s Guild—a network for “the new generation of sustainable agriculture.” Read more

When Ann Adams and Liz Brensinger started a small heirloom vegetable farm in the early 1990s, they called their new venture Green Heron Farms, after the birds that nested in a copse of trees on their property in New Tripoli, Pennsylvania. The name would turn out to be a form of kismet, as green herons are some of the few birds that use tools.

Adams and Brensinger, with their backgrounds in nursing and public health, soon learned an important, albeit painful, lesson: Most of the farm tools they used often had been designed for men. Read more

Two years ago, in the middle of summer, the water was shut off on the 143-acre farm and ranch that Dustin Stein manages in Mancos, Colorado.

As a farmer at the beginning of his career, Stein, who runs Stubborn Farm, was fortunate to share senior water rights with his landowner—a sought-after claim in this part of the country. This seniority meant he had access to a backup reservoir, but even that only gave him two more weeks worth of water and didn’t guarantee that the record-setting drought wouldn’t have a serious effect on his 75 head of cattle, row crops, pigs, and flock of hens. Read more

Two surprising things happened to Curtis Stone the year he decided to start Green City Acres, in Kelowna, British Columbia. First, he became a town celebrity and, second, he made a good living doing it.

In The Urban Farmer, Growing Food for Profit on Leased and Borrowed Land, Stone lays out his methodology for building a successful farm on a quarter acre of land. He strictly follows high-density, bio-intensive methods to create a compact landscape of specialty crops grown for market. Read more

Jahi Ellis is in survival mode. His island is the 91 acres of farmland he owns in Vidalia, Georgia, nearly 200 miles outside of Atlanta. His current shelter is a shed on his family’s land. His four-year land redemption agreement ends next fall and if he doesn’t come up with the near $60,000 he owes, he could lose it all. Organic farming—and the price premiums it brings—is one of his last strategies for saving his family’s 144-year-old vegetable farm. Read more

When the days turn cold and dark, farmers celebrate. After months of unrelenting labor, they’re finally able to sit down and relax, spend time with family, and connect and commiserate with their colleagues in this rapidly evolving industry.

Farming conferences dot the landscape throughout the winter months. One of the most popular, high-profile gatherings is the Young Farmers Conference, hosted by Stone Barns Center for Food & Agriculture as a key part of their Growing Farmers Initiative. The conference has sold out for many years running, the 250 attendees are selected through a lottery system, and it routinely attracts big names from the food world, such as Wendell Berry and Mark Bittman. Read more

First, the bad news: Native American children face approximately twice the levels of food insecurity, obesity, and Type 2 diabetes relative to all children in the United States.

The good news is that many communities are working to shift these statistics using traditional food, agriculture, and education. As Alena Paisano, a member of the Laguna Pueblo community who works with Farm to Table New Mexico, puts it: “These lessons go back hundreds of thousands of years. This is in harmony with our creation stories.” Read more