Posts By Katie Venit
Running a farm off the coast of Maine presents unique challenges: the growing season is short, labor expensive, and pests are a big problem. But Sara Hodges and John Wright, managers of Sparkplug Farms on Vinalhaven Island, are already turning a small profit and looking to expand in their second year.
If they do expand, they will need to hire additional help, but seasonal labor in lobster country can get expensive. Raccoons and deer took about 50 chickens this year. Supplies have to come in by ferry, which increases the cost about 10 percent. And then there’s the fog, which can cause mildew damage to crops.
Just Food, a Canadian organization dedicated to supporting a sustainable agriculture system in the Ottawa region, is offering a sandbox of sorts for those interested in organic farming. The program gives would-be farmers an opportunity to try out their business models without assuming all the risk of heavy start-up costs.
Through their work with farmers through CSAs and training programs over the years, Just Food staff noticed a shift in the types of people interested in breaking into organic farming. This new type of farmer, typically someone new to the area or someone wanting to turn farming from a hobby into a career, often has aspiration and some relevant skills, but little access to the large-scale infrastructure of farming such as land and equipment.