ask a farmer: how do I get started?
Originally published: September 20, 2016
I am often asked in interviews "Why did you decide to do the Female Farmer Project?"
Honestly, there are a million reasons. This young lady is one of them.
I AM GOING TO BE A SENIOR IN HIGH SCHOOL THIS YEAR AND I HAVE BEEN THINKING A LOT ABOUT WHAT I WANT TO DO AFTER SCHOOL. I HAVE A PASSION FOR GROWING/BUYING REAL FOOD AND I LOVE THE OUTDOORS AND ANIMALS--ESPECIALLY LIVESTOCK--LIKE CRAZY. I KNOW I WANT TO BE A FARMER BUT I HAVE NO IDEA WHERE TO START. I LIVE IN THE SEATTLE AREA AND I WAS WONDERING IF YOU COULD POINT ME IN THE RIGHT DIRECTION?
THANK YOU SO MUCH,
Thank you so much for writing. It is so exciting to hear about your passion and love for agriculture. First of all, you should know that the Seattle area is a great place – there are lot of resources, and organizations to support small farms and women in agriculture.
I recruited a few friends to help me answer your questions about where to start. One thing they all encouraged? Getting an education. And we second that. An education will help you in many ways that you will never expect. From entrepreneurship to geometry it’s all surprisingly useful on the farm.
Another recommendation we second is interning! Start looking at different farms in the area and see if there are opportunities to intern over the summer. It’s the quickest way to know if you’re up for the challenge.
We wish you the best of luck and hope you keep us all up to date on your adventures!
From Ali Jackson, a young female farmer in the Seattle area. She really lays it all out for you and I bet she’d be willing to give you a tour of the farm where she works.
Ali Jackson Two years ago I was in your exact position and now I am working on a farm on the Eastside! I have so many resources to share that I wrote a quick post with them all, including news sites, volunteer opportunities in Seattle and where to look for internships when you graduate:
Claire Foster is on the board of the SnoValley Tilth, an organization that I wholeheartedly support – they have a wonderful program called The Experience Farming Project that helps new farmers test out their farming business models and learn to grow different types of vegetables and farmers. Claire Foster And keep in mind the Experience Farming Project once you have a degree, or an internship under your belt, or a year employed on a farm, or a little other experience. It's a program that offers low-cost access to smallish parcels of land to try out your growing practices and marketing models before investing a huge amount of money in your own place: http://www.snovalleytilth.org/experience-farming-project/
Chrissy Hoefgen I graduated from high school in June 2015, and WWOOFed in Hawaii , but am now up near Bellingham participating in Cloud Mountain Farm Center beginner farmer internship. It is so awesome, and as my time comes to an end, I have experienced and learned so much about farming and life. Cloud Mountain also partners with Osprey Hill Farm (two of their interns come over to our place for education days!), pretty awesome place, especially for those interested in more animal farming. There are so many great farms up in Whatcom and Skagit Valley!
Chloe Jagelski I would start by getting a Permaculture Design Certificate (PDC). Taking this approach to learning and pattern recognition, along with the actual implementation and ethical notions taught throughout the course, is a fantastic way to start the farming venture and network within an established community. Colleges really are antiquated in most of their prescribed practices, and often teach methods that are so far divorced from natural management practices as to be absurd and harmful. Good luck!
Heather McLendon I had a great experience WWOOFing to support a career change. It would be a nice way to hone your interests through experience (small? Diverse vegetables? Orchard? Livestock? Geographic region? Etc) before jumping into a college degree or specialized internship.
Jess Huyghebaert Go for it! I started working on farms when I was 17. I'm now 29 and trying out my own small operation, wth two markets, while working part time at another farm. I also studied soils as part of a college degree. As a woman, I've had to speak up more to get to do more things on the farm but every farmer I've worked for has been open to it. Internships are great, especially if you live on the farm so you can see the daily rhythms outside of an 8-10 hour shift. But you can also work on a farm for an hourly rate and still ask questions and learn a lot- each has strengths. For relevance, I've worked mostly on small scale vegetable productions, 12 acres and smaller. Go for it!!
Andrea Heide Gorda Be prepared to think out of the box, attend a university with an agroecology program or find a permaculture course, WOOF, save your money because it can be an intensive capital investment... But not always... I guess that's where the creativity would come in :)
Brandy Davis Also check out AG programs at college level near you. ( I'm a new farmer and I'm currently in college working towards an ag education degree) Hands on learning that will help if you do decide to head down the gravel road!
Whitney Jacques Find a farm at a farmers market that does what you are dreaming of. Intern with them and learn hands on!
Milady Belle I live in Seattle! My first recommendation would be to volunteer or connect with Seattle Tilth. Also just visit local farms by contacting the owner and ask them if you can visit or volunteer. I'm currently working on Whidbey Island which has a huge great agricultural community.
WSU has an extension program in Puyallup and Skagit County. They have a Master Gardner Program that will soon start. They also offer some free classes which are great for networking.
I then would recommend doing a full season internship with a local farm. Check out ATTRA for a great list of paid internships! https://attra.ncat.org/attra-pub/internships/
Ashley Wilson Ditto this Emma!
Elizabeth LaRue She should consider the College of the Atlantic in Maine in a degree of sustainable agriculture.
(But then come back to Seattle! - Audra)
Christian Flickinger Check if your county has a Young Farmer program through theWashington Farm Bureau or the The National Young Farmers Coalition. They can help you get connected to other young farmers.
Karen Lewis Cloudview Farms in Eastern WA has an intern program
Enga Radovana Plavsica Live in Maine!
Great farmland, great outdoors, great networks!
(NO! We want you to stay in SEATTLE! :D - Audra)
ANNE CHAMPNEY INTERN SOMEWHERE, TAKE BUSINESS CLASSES, HAVE A PLAN.
Laura Kinser Rogue farm corps!!
Jess Bennett Hogan I own a farm in Gig Harbor and we'll be looking for someone to help come planting and picking season in the spring and next summer. Send me a pm if you're interested. :-) Facebook.com/artondalefarm