Summer is here, and if you’re an aspiring or new farmer, it’s a great time to learn from experienced producers around Vermont. Thanks to the organizing efforts of several farming organizations and networks — and farmers’ generosity with their time — our summer and fall months are filled with opportunities for field-based farmer education – from twilight meetings and farm tours to hands-on workshops and farmer socials.
Here are six good reasons make time to get to at least a few of these events.
- Learn from the masters. Host farms are often operations that have passed the test of time. These farms are successful, and model good agricultural practices. But every one of them also has made their share of mistakes. Take advantage of the opportunity to visit and tour these operations, and be sure to listen and observe carefully. You’ll earn a lot from these farmers’ experience about what might work – and what might not – on your farm.
- Meet the innovators. Another group of host farms are those that are coming up with new approaches to growing crops, raising livestock, managing their businesses and marketing their crops. Some of these individuals have been innovating for decades. Others are just a few years into an agricultural business and are bringing fresh ideas and approaches. Either way, connecting with these farmers is sure to spark your creativity and motivation.
- Get the science. A good many of these events pair farmer demonstration with presentations from agricultural researchers and educators. Whatever the topic – plant selection, pest management, or pasture productivity, for example – research-based knowledge can help you set the stage for success.
- The question you’d never have thought of. Sometimes, the most valuable “take away” from a field day comes in response to a question from another participant. Learning in a group setting sometimes doesn’t feel very time efficient, particularly when other attendees’ questions diverge from your interests. But being part of a group can also enrich the learning experience by bringing questions and perspectives you’d never have considered.
- Networking. These gatherings provide opportunities to learn from other “students” as well as from the host farmers and presenters. I’m always amazed by the experience and expertise that other farmers bring and share. Networking often happens during the informal “break-time” conversation at a focused workshop, but some events are primarily designed as springboards for farmer-to-farmer discussion and peer learning. Be sure to make the effort to make connections with other attendees. If there are opportunities to sign up for more information or get an attendees list, do so.
- It’s good, cheap fun. Most field days, farm tours and twilight have modest fees Some are even free. For the cost of your time, and gas money, you’ll learn a lot about what’s going on on Vermont farms, see some of Vermont’s landscape, and spend time with other people who share your passion for farming.
Schedule some time off the farm today! Visit the UVM Extension New Farmer Project’s Calendar of Events and to see what’s coming up in your area.