What’s been going on!
We had the Advanced Organic Crop Production class from Central Carolina Community College’s Sustainable Ag Program out on Monday, this is the course that I designed and taught for many years until I passed it on this season, another one of those things that l am trying to be selective about how I want to spend my time with in the future. It is one of the things that got me to thinking about how times have changed when it comes to educating new farmers and the public about small scale agriculture and sustainable farming.
Another was a call I had the other day with a very wealthy person who is starting a farm and wants to eventually make it an educational center. He asked did we charge for farm tours and I said that we never had. We have hosted hundreds of tours and thousands of people over the years from all corners of the US and the world and have never charged anyone. Back in the early years the few sustainable farmers on the ground were helping to build the ship, we wanted to spread the word about sustainable agriculture and were happy to cooperate and share the knowledge we had to do so.
Beyond farm tours we would spend each winter, for decades, making the circuit of farm conferences going to at least four or five each season, learning and speaking, sometimes teaching three or four sessions at one conference. Those non-profit organizations never had much money so we almost never got an honorarium, just free conference registration and sometimes rooms and travel money. It was helping to build our business and to get the ship afloat, it was good for everyone.
We also served on (and still do) many boards and advisory committees to make sure the voice of the small farmer is included. They range from local to national organizations all with a focus on sustainable agriculture. Hours spent in meetings and on conference calls again all on our own time and dime but we did help to move the needle a little.
Things began to change in the early 2000’s with the new generation of farmers coming of age along with the internet. When I produced the Organic Vegetable Production and Marketing in the South CD-ROM with the Southern Sustainable Agriculture Working Group I realized I was putting everything I knew into one replicable place and wanted some kind of remuneration and copy write assurances for my intellectual property and I received some stiff opinions about this from the old guard, we just didn’t do it that way.
Now the new farmers charge for everything, online video courses, farm tours, big speaking fees if they have a book or solid online content. I generally applaud them for being able to do that, we were just too early in the evolution of the movement and now much of it is passing us by. That’s okay too, we did build a beautiful ship though!
Picture of the Week
Our little farm in full production
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