Farm Labor. Wholesale marketing relationships. Sustaining yourself while sustaining your community. These are just a few of the needs occupying the hearts, minds and daily lives of the 15 new and beginning farmers in Glynwood’s Farm Business Incubator cohort this year .
On November 11, we gathered together the entire Incubator team -- seven farm businesses in all -- for a recap of each farm’s season, a communal meal, feedback on their experience so far in the program, and farmer-to-farmer exchange with three “mentor farmers,” each of whom have contributed to or participated in the program over the last few years: Claudia Kenney (Little Seed Gardens), Ashley Loehr (Sparrowbush Farm), and Pat Knapp (Back Paddock Farm).
As one of the few non-farmers in the room, I was struck by the optimism that was generated by the conversation, even if, as was said on more than one occasion (and I quote): “farming is f*^%ing hard.” I was thrilled that the majority of the businesses had met or exceeded their revenue goals for the season. More powerful, however, was the sincere praise, empathy and celebration expressed by their peers as each farmer reported out on the challenges and successes they had experienced.
We also invited our current apprentices to the convening so they could benefit firsthand from this new-farmer-to-new-farmer exchange. While the realities shared ‘round the table of new entry farming challenges could have been daunting for these farmers-to-be, what came through in the conversation was resolve, recognition, and even relief that the path these entrepreneurs were on was the right one. That theirs was more than just a career; it was a calling.
At Glynwood, we are dedicated to helping food system changemakers answer that call by inspiring, educating and supporting new entry farmers. We incubate farm businesses and train apprentices, yes. But beyond that we also develop empowering educational offerings and long-term collaborative coalitions that respond to the needs voiced by farmers and food systems changemakers throughout our region, throughout their careers. The reason we exist is to fulfill our role in the community of support that these farmers and changemakers need, and it is our privilege and obligation to do so.