Where Do You Grow Farmers?

In the past month I lost two great farmers and friends. One grew vegetables with a specialty in garlic and the other was an avid orchardist and gardener. Not only will they be missed by family and friends, but the knowledge and skills they had and their food production will no longer be here.

Where do we get the people to replace this loss? These two got up every day with farming on their minds. Planning for the next crop, the cultivations needed, the picking and cleaning. Where do we find people committed to this important resource, our food?

One place is the Ohio Ecological Food and Farm Association. For the past 39 years I have belonged to this grassroots organic farm organization that provides an annual conference, farm tours, a newsletter, grower assistance and a network of like-minded people. Every year at the conference I meet young people who are looking for a chance to fill the need for new farmers. Also you meet people who are retiring and have the means to start a new career as a farmer. The talk is easy, but the best way to convey the reality of farming is the farm visit. Crawling on your hands and knees pulling those pesky weeds or planting the seeds gives one the attachment to the earth. Then there’s feeding the chickens in the morning, not one day but 365 days, for those fresh golden eggs.

Farming is a job that takes commitment, planning and a dedication to the idea of producing quality goods to share with family and community. There is nothing like the feeling one gets at a farmers’ market that your produce will feed a family or an individual and raise a smile. Another great thing about being a farmer is that it teaches you to be flexible because every day’s needs are different, the weather changes or the crop’s viability changes and you need to change with it.

Here at Bluebird Organic Farm we are getting ready to place our seed order for the year. We are starting onions and early tomatoes and peppers for the high tunnels. We are feeding and watering the chickens to keep their eggs flowing. Compost piles are being turned to provide the fertility for the coming crops. We are repairing equipment for the coming season.

This also is our break time, to curl up with a good book and a warm cup of tea.

The farm is an ever-changing environment throughout the year. So if you are someone young looking for a career or old looking for a change, try farming. Go to a farm conference this winter or talk to a farmer in your neighborhood. An old farmer who used to raise cattle and run a small store told me once that when you lose your local farmers, you lose your independence.

Replace your lawn with a garden. Add a few apple trees as a fence row. Put in a bed of asparagus or rhubarb along your driveway. Put your fingers in the earth and become a farmer.

Mick Luber is an organic farmer at Bluebird Farm in Cadiz. He has more than 30 years of organic farming experience and is a regular at the Wheeling farmers’ markets.