In 2009, the pair took a road trip from Northern California to Oregon with a couple of friends eager to scout out land for their new farm. It quickly became clear, however, that the kind of farming they were interested in, where livestock and crops utilized the same land, was more than a little beyond their reach.
“We realized that if we were going to be driving the tractors and managing the livestock ourselves, we would need $10 million worth of farmland and that didn’t fit in our credit limits,” Wichner says.
That’s when they realized they would need a different kind of business model.
This time of year, the airwaves fill with the soothing voice of Nat King Cole crooning about chestnuts.
Though this seasonal treat is not as common as it used to be when you could buy a handful from a sidewalk vendor or pick a bowlful from your own native tree, it is still possible to find fresh chestnuts to roast, boil, broil, or tuck into casseroles. Ben and Sandy Bole have owned Ladd Hill Orchards since 1988.
When they purchased it, the property was a neglected walnut orchard sixteen miles south of
In 2008, Greenbank Farm established its Organic Farm School to teach sustainable agricultural methods to students from all walks of life. The farm, located on Greenbank, Washington’s Whidbey Island, teaches agriculture methods and emphasizes how to manage a farm as a viable business.
Farm manager and instructor Jessica Babcock says the Farm School’s emphasis on business management is what sets it apart from other organic agricultural training programs.
“Each student leaves the program with an extensive business plan they have written that they can use to start their own sustainable farm business,” says Babcock.
Ohio farmers new to sustainable agriculture can get a leg up on the learning curve with the help of the Ohio Ecological Food and Farm Association (OEFFA).
The non-profit organization, established in 1979, works to promote and support the sustainable agriculture community in Ohio from producers to consumers including those new to farming. OEFFA assists new farmers through a variety of networking events, an apprenticeship program, and an investment fund created to encourage the expansion of sustainable farming practices.
Embedded in the bucolic Evans Valley just outside of Rogue River, Oregon is The Farming Fish, a 40-acre certified organic farm. Thirty of the acres remain wild and wooded so owners Michael Hasey and Olivia Hittner can harvest native edibles like mushrooms, berries, and ferns, while the remaining 10 acres are made up of pastureland for livestock, vegetable row crops, an orchard, and an aquaponic farming operation.
Although Hittner realizes aquaponic farming is not a “silver bullet,” she and Hasey do see it as an integral part of our agricultural future. In a world of scarce resources, aquaponic farming conserves natural resources like water while still producing a greater food output, says Hittner. As a result, Hittner sees aquaponics as a way to close the hunger gap and preserve resources for future generations.
An Ohio native who moved to the bright sunny state of Southern California, Jeff Mott decided his life had a different purpose. That purpose meant leaving behind the SoCal lifestyle, buying an Amish homestead on the Virginia/Ohio border and initiating a lifestyle change that has not only proven to be profitable, but has also changed his entire perspective.
35 miles outside of Wheeling, West Virginia lies the Mott Family Farm, the Ohio-based haven of two former California residents, Jeff and Shelley Mott, who craved a back to basics approach to life, a slowing down of pace and an opportunity to share a love of growing that began in California. Land prices and moving closer to Jeff’s father were only part of the equation. Mott felt his California lifestyle was missing a sense of community.
Urban Oaks Organic Farm resides in North Oak, a low-income area in New Britain, Conn. Urban Oaks was started to help improve the food-insecure neighborhood. “In our neighborhood, which used to be infested with crime and drugs and violence, it’s much less,” Elizabeth Aaronsohn, an active volunteer at Urban Oaks Organic Farm and Farm board member, said.
Mike Kandefer and Tony Norris (deceased, 2007) were originally herb farmers in Bolton, Conn., but when the city of New Britain, Conn., asked Kandefer and Norris to takeover an old, abandoned 3-1/2-acre flower farm (now known as Urban Oaks), the duo jumped at the chance. “The city put in $100,000. Lots of volunteers helped clean up the space. That was 15 years ago,” said Aaronsohn.
Matt Russell, one of Coyote Run Farm’s owners, grew up on a farm in Iowa. And before Russell went to college, he swore he would never do two things: Become a farmer, and live in a small community. Well, a few years out of college was all it took to change Russell’s mind. He moved back to Iowa with Patrick Standley, the Farm’s other owner, and founded the 110-acre Coyote Run Farm in Lacona, IA, in January of 2005. “I wanted to set roots in Iowa,” Russell said. “When we felt like we had enough money to buy a farm, we started looking in the fall of 2004.” The farmers found land through a real estate agent within six weeks of starting their search.
When Russell finally did decide to go into farming, he wanted to make certain his farm business model would mitigate risk. “I wanted to figure out a way to increase the net as a percentage growth. Instead of growing bigger, I wanted to have lower growth and lower input.”