This week’s post is from Nancy LaRowe, Farmer-in-Residence at Vital Communities
The resources and information available to farmers today is amazing! When I started farming, more than 20 years ago, the internet was in its infancy and agriculture was not considered a particularly respectable profession. These days, people are clamoring for healthy food raised by people they know and the amount of information about how to successfully farm is almost limitless.
Vermont has always been ahead of the curve so I was lucky enough to be part of the growing community of people working the land by attending NOFA conferences and workshops, the grazing conference, and pasture walks organized by the UVM Extension and the Center for Sustainable Agriculture.
In 2003 I took the Growing Places class, which helped by focusing my many scattered business ideas into a clear plan for the future. After a few years in business, I was accepted into the Farm & Forest Viability Program. At the end of the two-year program I had a business plan which considered my quality of life in addition to the success of the business.
The resources I had access to are all still available to new and beginning farmers, and there are so many more opportunities:
- The Vermont New Farmer Project has a slate of classes offered for various aspects and growth stages of a farm business, and an amazing collection of helpful information in the “toolsheds.”
- Coaching and business planning opportunities, such as the Intervale Center’s Beginning Farmer Program mentioned in the last post.
- Webinars about all aspects of starting and running a farm business are at your fingertips and more scheduled every week.
- Workshops throughout New England that feature experts in various fields sharing successes and failures.
- Land-access opportunities abound in every part of the state.
- Websites such as Farm Hack, Virtual Grange, and others share tricks of the farming trade.
- Connecting socially with the community of new farmers is easier than ever with farmer meet-ups around the state, the Vermont Young Farmer Coalition, and Facebook.
I know from experience how easy it is get caught up in the daily grind — the tyranny of the urgent. And, asking for help is not typically the strong suit of farmers.
But I encourage you to take advantage of this quieter time of the year and work on improving your farm business. I’m so excited about the multitude of opportunities in agriculture these days that in addition to farming I’m working as a service provider and spreading the word about how to access the help you need to succeed. Starting and running a profitable farm business is a lot of work. Let us help!
Nancy LaRowe has lived in the Upper Valley for more than 25 years. She has been active in food and farm issues during that time and runs Hogwash Farm in Norwich.