In September, our first cohort will graduate from the program and we will welcome our second cohort for another year of shared learning in October. Guest blogger and Heartland Farm Beginnings participant, Caroline McColloch shares some of her experiences in the program and as a new farmer.
What a day. There is something about working with like-minded people that is very motivating! Couple that with an attitude for nosing out opportunity, and now you’re cookin’. Things might just start happening.
One of the energizing things about this Heartland Farm Beginnings class® is the camaraderie of regenerative agriculture. There aren’t too many professions where all is done with such purpose and devotion. Though farming is often a solitary endeavor, as colleagues networking, we collaborate toward the larger goal of building commerce and community around healthy ecosystems and food production. The great benefit of restorative agriculture is the so-called triple bottom line, whereby a gain in one area of life does not come at an exorbitant expense to another: economics and ecology and social factors are all addressed in the way we steward our farms. We’re not in it only to make a living, but also to improve the world we live in, one healthy person and community at a time. It all begins with the soil and the sun.
Nearing the end of sixty classroom hours in the ninth session, we listened to the professionals outline funding and program opportunities and heard about state and national farm policy advocacy. My head was spinning with the proverbial “high bandwidth download.” But the day wasn’t over! One of the panel speakers from a previous class about buyers was expecting my visit at his recently opened butcher shop. And wow! What an amazing selection of artisanal offerings of cheeses, fresh meats, and special pantry items, all conscientiously sourced fresh from nearby producers. I visited a little with Tony Tanner, the proprietor of The Butcher and Grocer, discussing meat goat production. One can really appreciate that personal relationships are the bedrock of his business: another pillar of the new food and farming paradigm is relationships, whereas the industrial model to some extent treats relationships as a hindrance to efficiency.
So much packed into eleven hours! I came home with these wonderful posters from the Natural Resources Conservation Service about Monarch butterflies and flowering trees for pollinators. Education itself can be a work of art. My homecoming was made especially enjoyable, having “voted with my food dollars” to partake of a delectable locally brewed IPA, some heavenly goat cheese, and a cured meat resembling prosciutto (“charcuterie”) from The Butcher and Grocer.