Comments by Joe and Mark about attracting younger families.
Thank you for the very, as usual, thoughtful note.
I am pleased and amazed at the amount of farm to table agriculture going on right here in little Huntington and every where we go, especially in the hills we see example after example. This event, farm to table, is in my view the most notable Vermont cultural and economic event of the last decade and the Windekind/Commons can be integral to this movement in many ways. Coupled to this observation is my understanding of the potential of our south facing meadow that is developing, thanks to my study of Permaculture. The conclusion is that connecting younger ” real farmers” with it could be a match made in heaven for the farm and its community. Doing this would take a lot of thought and planning, a process that we have started but needs input from others especially practintioners with hands on experience and knowledge. These could be folks attracted to the project or perhaps we hire some consultants to help us with our planning.
We could also begin to focus our marketing at more this population. This would mean some changes on the web site and other Windekind social media tool plus a much more focused outreach to places where these folks are. Alex and Emily have indicated a lot of interest along these lines–so I will be sure to keep them up-to date on these developments. The key hare is getting a much better grasp on just what the meadow is capable of and how that would pan out financially and otherwise out for interested parties.
I just read Mark’s newsletter and got to thinking a bit more about attracting younger people to Windekind/The Commons. A couple of years ago I began researching the Vermont Land Trust and related State of Vermont programs for farmland preservation. Though highly successful at helping preserve and conserve farms as farms (rather than seeing preserved farmland become estates for the wealthy), one of the biggest problems has been the gravitational pull of established large farms whose owners have disproportionate access to financial support, v. often highly qualified young farmers with great business plans but insufficient access to capital. Most — arguably too many — important Vermont farms have been preserved by melding them into existing large corporate farms throughout the State, while way too many young aspiring farm-to-table farmers go begging. Farming’s biggest challenge in our country today is the average age of today’s farmer: Baby Boomer or just a shade younger.
Bearing in mind that many of the young farm-to-table farmers in our area (Bucks County/Hunterdon County, NJ) have achieved success on remarkably small rented or leased land parcels (1-3 acres) and bearing in mind that though well-intended, none of us is a “real farmer”, I wonder if we ought to evaluate the potential to attract young farmers with ideas and business plans for selected portions of the Meadow, and begin the Permaculture process by selecting one or two of them to The Commons to in effect “anchor” key portions of our long term permaculture plan. They would ideally produce a lot more vegetables, cheese or whatever than we ourselves could consume; could therefore become successful suppliers to local area stores and restaurants and/or to subscribers of a Windekind-based CSA; would build their income and savings; and, could eventually join the community as residents or co-owners in perpetuity.
To conclude, when we ourselves were looking during 2014-2015 at buying a farm in Vermont, we were able to work with agents who had studied agriculture and forestry in-State, were themselves living rural lives and exchanging their own milk, cheese, poultry or pork with neighbors, and could facilitate access to young farmers to whom we could offer long term, affordable access to land. The potential mutual benefits were obvious to us as older, non-farming aspirants to a healthy rural life that we could ultimately bequeath to our grandkids.