Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Seeley Farm Greens

Mark and I feel so grateful to have the opportunities the Four Season Farmer Development Program is affording us. Without the enormous obstacle of finding affordable land with all the infrastructure we need to run our business, we've been able to focus our time on the other details of our production: crop planning, soil preparation, marketing, and more. And it's been invaluable to share this experience with a group of other young farmers who are starting on similar but unique projects of their own. It's been comforting to know that we're part of a team here, and not just out on our own.

-Alex Cicciari

Friday, May 20, 2011

Jill From Green Things Farm

In response to Andrea's question...

"How has being a part of the Four Season Farmer Development Program affected your outlook on farming & developing your own business?"

Twenty two and self-employed two months out of my undergraduate degree--these past few months building a farm from nothing have absolutely been the hardest and most exciting times I have yet to experience. My body is tired from bending and lifting and most days I go to bed with a to-do list that has not stopped rolling by the time I wake up. But each day I feel my muscles growing along with my convictions that the local food movement is a beautiful and substantial effort worth dedicating all of my hours.

The gift and curse of farming is how flexible it can be. The business is developing over time, and has room to be creative in so many ways. Nate and I have so much fun dreaming about what to build next, how to design vegetable beds, or what more we can incorporate into the farmscape. The downside to all of this freedom is that there is very little structure; possibilities and problems are innumerable therefore the work is endless.

The connections we have made because we are now farmers to birth, death, and community have been incredible. Our co-farmers and advisors are unique in their capacity for kindess and to achieve great things and for that are truly inspiring.

Tilian has been an amazing support network to help us start our business. Without the push from this program, we may not have started our farm for years, while we have been chomping a the bit to just do it. That is how I feel about most things these days... Just do it! What have you really got to lose when you have so much to gain?

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Hogs, Chicks, & Artichokes, Oh My!

Welcome to Tilian Farm Development Center's Four Season Farmer Development Program Blog. In the coming months our 5 farmers will be sharing their stories about their business development in Ann Arbor Township. These 5 farmers are launching 3 new farm businesses & are eager to share their business ventures with the surrounding community.

Green Things Farm's Nate Lada & Jill Sweetman have rows & rows of onions, lettuce and other tasty veggies stretching up to the sun in preparation for their CSA, which starts with a member pick-up next week!

Seeley Farm has 2,225 sq. feet of artichokes planted inside a new hoop house and is watching lettuce & other salad greens peek out of the newly tilled soil. They are looking for restaurants & local grocers to buy their greens.

Bending Sickle Community Farm is growing rapidly. First, with 100 chicks whose feathers change by the day, and then with 5 young hogs, who will be harvested at around 225 lbs. Baby goats are the newest arrivals and lambs will come in the summer. A heritage meat CSA will offer 150 pounds of meat per member share.

I asked the farmers to answer the question:
"How has being a part of the Four Season Farmer Development Program affected your outlook on farming & developing your own business?"

And I think I will answer it too.

Over the past 6 months, working with Jeff McCabe & the Advisory Team to launch the program and recruit the farmers, and now to watch them gear up and settle in, I have learned more than I ever knew about farming. I knew it was a lifestyle choice, not particularly profitable, financially risky, but oh so appealing in its seeming freedom & necessity to work out of doors. What I did not fully grasp, and never will, unless I am to farm myself, is the extreme commitment, courage, fearlessness, and determination it takes. These five peers of mine, are a joyous, tenacious group. They are eager, yet patient, and will do what it takes to see their business succeed as a sustainable benefit to their community. They are up with the sun, and writing updates to their CSA members after dark. They are moving across the sate, maintaining second jobs, connecting with experienced farmers, trying new growing methods, driving to Kentucky for a walk-behind tractor, and, all the while, smiling. They just successfully raised over $12,000 to cover the cost of tools & equipment for the program that were not covered in the grant, and I do not doubt their energy for future endeavors with match that of the recent Kickstarter Campaign.

That said, please visit their websites, linked above, and support their work, their livelihood, their lifestyle choice ~ as sustainability-focused vegetable growing & livestock rearing business people, who long, as do many of us, to see our community transformed with universal access to healthy, local and organic food.