nearly every profession has its share of resources for those who are new to the field: mentorships, apprenticeships, networking groups, linkedin referrals, and on and on. both of us have worked in the corporate world, and so have seen this helping-hand strategy many times, with numerous stories of those who were assisted in their careers by others who resided a few rungs up the ladder.
but neither of us have seen any industry or company that’s been as responsive, gracious, and flat-out generous as organic and sustainable farming folks.
that’s not bias, even though we love our farming life. even seen from an objective view, the willingness of farmers to help other farmers is stunning. we’ve talked to people who, in another profession, may have regarded us as direct competitors — we’re reaching out to the same customers, in the same geographic regions, and offering the same product — and would have held their tactics in reserve as a result.
instead, if we need advice, we simply ask and it comes in a deluge, from multiple sources.
here’s just a sampling of all the support systems that give us comfort on a daily basis:
- organizations like the land stewardship project, renewing the countryside, the sustainable farming association, minnesota grown, and the institute for agricultural and trade policy are geared toward creating a free flowing informational river that just seems to keep getting deeper and wider.
- the university of minnesota runs a couple of listservs (sustag and mnurbanfarmers) that connect farmers with each other and with various resources. for example, an urban farmer recently asked about affordable soil testing services on sustag, and about a dozen people responded within 24 hours with phone numbers, email links, personal experiences, price quotes, and other ideas.
- midwest organic and sustainable education service (moses) has set us up with a mentorship with loon organics, a very established csa farm that sells at mill city market and is run by laura frerichs and adam cullip. at the recent moses conference, adam patiently answered the kajillion questions we had about spring planting and gave us a kajillion ideas in return. we’re really thrilled to know that if we see a roadblock looming ahead, a quick note to laura and adam could potentially help us figure out how to swerve around it.
- our fellow beginning farmers and established farmers alike. from the super energetic dayna burtness of laughing loon farm to the very knowledgeable atina diffley (co-founder of gardens of eagan), we’ve met such a wealth of helpful, enthusiastic farmers, and we have yet to encounter someone who won’t answer one of our questions with gusto.
farming can sometimes seem so overwhelming, like trying to empty a bathtub with a teaspoon.
but our local — and, to some degree, national — farming community is like having a few hundred people using their teaspoons at the same moment. and for no reward other than the satisfaction gained from creating a healthy, stronger food system that benefits us all.