In February 2008, Zoë Bradbury left her job at Ecotrust, where she was a regular contributor to Edible Portland, to start farming on Oregon’s southern coast. Right after leaving, she wrote, “I pulled up to my new greenhouse on Floras Creek with a riot of saw-toothed artichoke divisions in the back of the truck, teased them apart into one-gallon transplant pots, and officially began my first season farming for myself, next door to my mom and sister.”
Over the next year, she kept a blog for Edible Portland called Diary of a Young Farmer. Her intention to share her experiences as she began farming has blossomed into a full-fledged collaborative book, which she co-edited, hitting stores this month: Greenhorns: 50 Dispatches from the New Farmers’ Movement.
I caught up with her to talk about the book, learn about her life at Valley Flora Farm in Langlois, and get a glimmer of what the New Farmers’ Movement is and where it’s headed. Read more
I have a weird fascination with inventions, and often wonder what the beginning of something was. What led to someone coming up with stained glass? Or what about an alarm clock? These are simple creations that pale in comparison with even more complex items that we also use without much thought…dishwashers? Copy machines? This computer? Maybe I should have pursued a career in engineering, but more likely my preoccupation with these inventions is due to the fact that I have little understanding of them. It seems that that disconnect between the things we use and depend on and how they function leads to a pretty common level of frustration. The rise in DIY projects and interest that we are seeing these days surely has to do with that frustration leading to a push for self-reliance.
I think it also has to do with a larger disconnect, one that has moved us away from community minded information sharing and collaboration. We have less and less opportunity in this modern world to wave down a neighbor with a question about chicken husbandry or how to fix a broken well pump. Instead, we jump on the Internet and Google the answer, hoping that the source we choose to trust is reputable and fact-based. The National Young Farmers’ Coalition (NYFC) has launched a project for the today’s sustainable farming community that brings the best of both worlds together. FarmHack taps the same age-old premise of learning directly from others in a similar community while creating innovative open source sharing technologies to reach small farmers around the globe. Read more
I’m an aspiring farmer from a non-farming background and these days I join a growing number of Americans doing the same. For us, farming is attractive as a community rather than strictly commodity enterprise. When we look back at American agriculture for inspiration we see models of collective enterprise that break the dichotomy of a “hippie commune” ideal versus Green Revolution industry. I work with a grassroots nonprofit group of young farmers called The Greenhorns (est. 2007) that serves as a network of support for America’s young and aspiring farmers. Everything we do endorses agriculture as a community act. Take the Greenhorns’ online mapping project, Serve Your Country Food, which charts the daily appearance of new farmers like honeybees in the national hive. Read more
In 2008, the MacArthur Foundation awarded urban farming visionary Will Allen, CEO of Growing Power, a genius award. The announcement made Allen a food justice icon and fueled public interest in urban agriculture. With this interest in view, I will be profiling here, and at my blog envo, nonprofits, social entrepreneurs, and small farmers who are transforming the urban food landscape one plot, one market, and one community at a time. Read more
The young farmers movement is growing, and the circle of caring continues to expand. As we work to build a business around our love of farming and a family alongside our practice, we encounter one scary part of growing up: Realizing how deeply critical our own health is to the viability of the farm. As young farmers with brave muscles and big dreams, we invest our best physical years in finding, setting up and capitalizing a farmstead. As entrepreneurs, we take tremendous risks and reinvest the earnings in service to a new small business. As citizens, we commit ourselves to place and to the performance of an ancient and sacred duty: providing sustenance to our community. But when the operation of all these interlocking systems relies for its longevity on the physical strength and resilience of an individual body, the body of the young farmer turns out to be one of the weakest links in the new food system. Read more
Almost two years after its founding in a basement in Berkeley, California, The Greenhorns has matured from an idea for a recruitment film into a widespread national community. We are now happily rooted on my first commercial farm, Smithereen, on rented land in the Hudson Valley of New York. Read more
My style is more Birkenstock than Birkin bag, so Fashion Week doesn’t do much for me. You know the Shopocalypse has arrived when designers go dumpster diving for shoulder pads in the Dynasty/Dallas dustbin. Padded assets in this Grapes of Graft depression? Dust Bowl duds, à la the Waltons, would be more fitting for the hard times ahead.
But the John Patrick Organic fashion show managed to bypass both eighties excess and seventies scarcity and find fertile ground in “Green Acres,” the sixties spoof starring Eddie Albert and Eva Gabor as neophyte homesteaders. I knew this wouldn’t be a run-of-the-mill runway show because (a) it featured a “young farmer bake sale,” and (b) the invite came from Greenhorns director Severine Von Tscharner Fleming. Read more
Greenhorn is a word I expect I’ll hear fairly often in years to come. A greenhorn, according to Severine von Tscharner Fleming, Paula Manalo and Zoe Bradbury – authors of the newly released second edition of The Guide for Beginning Farmers is “a novice, or new entrant into agriculture.” To be precise, it is a certain kind of new entrant into agriculture: one who was not raised to farm and who has no family farm to inherit but who is unconventionally and some would say irrationally choosing to become a farmer, no matter his or her lack of education and resources. Touches of madness are not uncommon among greenhorns. Gutfuls of passion aren’t either. Read more