Here Come the New Farmers

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Spring is here in the Hudson Valley, and with it the annual influx of agricultural workers are making their way to their various apprenticeships, beginner farmer programs, seasonal jobs, and specialty enterprises.   As I watch the aggregate assemble I am reminded of the rich history of farming in the area and the diversity that it brings.  From the Guatemalan pickers I drive by each morning to the greenhorns with their new boots and clean fingernails, I am both interested and impressed with our work.  Bringing healthy food to people is a very difficult job and one that takes a lot of will and a big dream to get started.  Of all the new arrivals, those newcomers are the ones that I will pay the most attention to these next couple of months.  I am familiar with them, as at one time I was one of those people, but also because they seek me out.  At least once a week I receive a phone call from a very excited individual that wants to tell me about their particular agricultural dream.  I listen, I take notes, I am supportive and I am realistic, but as a community I wonder if we could do more?

Over the years I have realized that it is all of our jobs to make sure that we get the most out of these people and that they are able to get the most out of us.  We set examples though our actions and our demeanor, the way we treat others and the way that we treat ourselves.  The dream cloud floating above their head can be focused and refined to produce a currency of ideas and plans for their own farm or for yours.  And that is where we come in.  As mentors and role models we can plant the seeds that will grow into new ideas that they can share.  Half the battle is knowing what you really like to do.  Most of these people, whether they be a returned veteran starting a ranch or a city girl looking for redemption in the soil, deserve the opportunity to learn what they love about agriculture and what doesn’t excite them. By providing a 360 degree view of the business we prepare them for the realities of being a good steward to the land and to the pocketbook.

Not all of their plans or partnerships will pan out and the more that I am involved in the process the quicker I can spot those that most likely will not find their niche in the farming community.  We have to realize that that in itself is an opportunity.  Our example and honestly will provide them with a sense of what it really means to grow healthy and nutritious products for people.  They may not be directly involved with the production but they will have become a better person for the experience.  For those that do stick it out, I look forward to seeing them again whether it be at the local sale barn or maybe at a policy meeting in Albany.  Through and through farming is about learning and transitions. We can all work together to make sure everyone gets a piece of the knowledge pie.

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