Tuesday, 19 June 2012

Some Advice for Young Farmers

This is a post for those who want to start a small farm, and want to connect to the local and global movements that connect the other young enthusiastic farmers who are making it happen around the world. It is a kind of a list of suggestions about how to plug-in to the global farming movement.

These are all good places to find collaborators, supporters, fellow activists, workers, networkers, grants and even to gain market access. Although, I would urge you not to use these connections and platforms to promote your products. Too many folks are already doing that and it really messes up the dialogue.

Go instead for local markets! I often tell people to do like Fukuoka and look at your neighbors and local small shops and don't try to make a killing, just make enough. Fukuoka is the grandaddy of radical farming (I recommend picking up his 'Natural Way of Farming' and 'One Straw Revolution' if you haven't already). If Fukuoka saw fruits and vegetables from his farm being sold at a premium in the shop he would refuse to do business with that shop again. (Conversely, the modern radical farmer is Wendell Berry and I recommend getting a copy of his 'What are People For' and for American readers 'The Unsettling of America'.)

Anyway, what I was writing about was, and what I believe to be the most important first step when getting started is, networking:

There are a few important places to plug in. Most of them ask for membership and charge a small annual fee to keep the network going but you can get pretty well involved without becoming a member as well.

The Slow Food Movement is working hard to defend what they call 'food biodiversity'. A beautiful term that comes from the genius mind and heart of the founder Carlo Petrini and has been taken up by activist groups and foodies around the world. In order to defend food biodiversity they develop networks, offer food and taste education, and connect producers and consumers. www.slowfood.com

La Via Campesina is the international movement which brings together millions of peasants, farmers and workers around the world. They call themselves an 'autonomous, pluralist and multicultural movement'. They work to defend small-scale sustainable agriculture as a way to promote social justice and dignity. http://viacampesina.org/en/

The International Federation of Organic Agriculture Movements (IFOAM) is working all over the world to promote Organic farming and to support small-scale 'high biodiversity' farming. They have a number of resources from practical training to empowerment and advocacy. They kick ass and need your support. www.ifoam.org

Urgenci works closely with IFOAM. It is an international network of small scale farmers and community shared agriculture (CSA) with a network really stretches around the world - they have a bunch of great support for young and local farmers. http://www.urgenci.net

Young Organics also works closely with IFOAM and is working hard to promote young farmers for the International activism scene and on the ground in Europe. They keep a blog http://youngorganics.wordpress.com/ and you can find them (us) all on facebook if you do a little searching.

The Greenhorns or the Irresistible Fleet of Bicycles http://www.thegreenhorns.net/ is a group of young farmers in the United States that are working to promote and support young farmers there. They are increasingly reaching out to the international movements. I even saw the founder Severin T. Fleming at the Slow Food Terra Madre a few years back.

The National Young Farmers Movement (NYFC) works for young farmers in the US, it does networking, enhances skills through the facilitation of peer-to-peer learning, and fights for the policies that will keep people farming for life. www.youngfarmers.org/ They have resources that will also be interesting for you farmers from outside the US.

Finally, the Linked In Organic Network is also a good place to start making some connections

Yes! magazine did a piece on young farmers a few years ago that is worth a read. 
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