Q&A

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?

J

 

DEAR J:
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), www.nofany.org, 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® Talk 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. Stay tuned.

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 of luck.

NF

 

Do you have advice for J? Send it to daniel.sullivan@rodaleinst.org and we’ll pass it along.