Although Farm Science Review encompasses the entirety of the farming world, much of the equipment demonstrations and education conversations are often dedicated to traditional farming. A large portion of the farmers in attendance are those of multi-generational farms that have lasted for decades. However, the review also works to bridge the gap between established farmers and those just beginning.
On Wednesday, there were several talks discussing the nature of beginning and start-up farmers from a variety of extension educators. The goal of the speakers was to communicate both the potential hardships and possibilities of farming for those new to agriculture. Suzanne Mills-Wasniak, the OSU Extension Educator in Montgomery County, gave a talk on the process to starting a farm.
“‘Why you want to farm’ is the conversation you have with yourself before you ever start to spend money,” Mills-Wasniak said. “It’s a lifestyle and everybody wants a lifestyle. Is that what you are wanting to do when you farm?” With the level of commitment it takes to be a farmer, be it time or finances, Mills-Wasniak said a person has to know what taking on that lifestyle will truly mean to them.
“You have to have long and short term goals,” she said. Trying to take on too much at once often detours people’s progress so the first step is to know where you are going. “Have a plan written out and know where you’re getting the money, the land and everything it’s going to take to make a functional farm.”
She joked that the talk may scare some people off, but reassured the audience that part of its purpose is to educate potential farmers on what their realistic expectations should be.
On the other side of the coin, are the possibilities of types of farms people can have once they decide what their plan will be. Kris Medic, an Extension Educator with Purdue University, gave a talk on best practices for start-ups. The talk specifically looked at the successes of small New England farms and how beginners in the Midwest could apply their techniques.
“We talked to a number of conservancies and land trusts who work to save agricultural land,” Medic said. The land trusts in Maine are taken on in a variety of ways but with the focus of either preserving land or ensuring its use for agricultural purposes. “This is something we would like to see happen more in the Midwest.”
In Medic’s travels, she also met with farmers who have partnered with markets or population areas before even starting their growing as a way to ensure guaranteed business. Some of the farms also had relationships with local chefs which allowed farm-to-fork restaurants to serve locally-grown produce.
“Farmers pretty much knew what was going to work for themselves and their market conditions,” she said. “They had a really clear vision on that. They based their scale decisions on data.” Having that vision before going into the process also tied back in with Mills-Wasniak’s talk for beginning farmers in Ohio. Since a portion of the job is left to uncontrollable circumstances, it’s really important that farmers know who their product is going to, how much and how often.
Reach Michael Williamson at 740-852-1616, ext. 1619.