DEAR NEW FARM:
I just found your web site tonight and am excited about looking
at it all. I've just scratched the surface of your site and
it seems to be just the web site that I need. Thank you!
At this point I have only one question: I'm turning 40, about
ready to retire from 20 years in the Marines working in high-tech
communications and, rather than seek employment in the civilian-tech
sector, I've convinced my wife to move to upstate New York
(from Ohio) and start a production goat dairy farm.
The question? Well, am I nuts? Is this a bad move? Am I too
old to be starting a farm at 40 (especially a goat farm)?
My wife has been raising 7 goats, 50 chickens, 6 turkeys,
and we have horses, rabbits, cats and dog—on 3 acres.
We will be starting our new goat farm on 11 acres until the
business builds to a point to expand. As crazy as it sounds
even to me, I have this never-ending drive to become a farmer
and, to be quite frank, it's the first time that I haven't
been 100 percent sure of myself in a new project. I’ve
been learning and reading all that I can. What do you think?
Your story sounds cut straight out of a Barbara Kingsolver
novel (see Prodigal
Summer, in our bookstore, to get reference). All kidding
aside (whoops, bad pun), it sounds like your mind is already
made up and that you’ve got the drive and vision to
breathe life into those dreams of yours.
Your doubts are understandable, though—farming is not
an easy vocation. The good news is that you are not alone.
Several organizations and initiatives in your area—such
as the Northeast Organic Farming Association of New York (NOFA-NY),
and Growing New Farmers, www.northeastnewfarmer.org—are
poised to help you learn an approach to farming that is both
ecologically sound and economically viable. An abundance of
recently published books, such as Natural
Goat Care by Pat Coleby (Acres U.S.A., 2001), is at your
disposal (visit the
goat page of our online bookstore for this and other titles
on the subject). And of course there’s The New Farm®
section, offering you an ongoing forum for asking questions
of other farmers, inspiring farm stories (check out our two
recent pieces on dairy goat operations in California: Redwood
Hill and Capricious
Cheese), the latest news and research, and ways to market
your products and connect with the services you need.
Working together with a number of writers and organizations,
we’re also developing a series of practical articles
for beginning farmers that will continue through this year
and into 2005. The series will cover everything from tractor
basics to finding a mentor, from business plans to finding
land, from best farming practices to best buys at auction.
As current events continue to call into question the wisdom
and safety of an industrial food system that puts corporate
profits ahead of human health and animal welfare, individuals
and communities are looking to food producers they can trust—farmers
like you who are committed to raising meat and produce ethically,
on an appropriate scale, and in harmony with the land.
What do we think, J? We salute you, and we wish you the best
Do you have advice for J? Send it to firstname.lastname@example.org
and we’ll pass it along.