Young farmers learn about viability

Groundswell Center nurtures young farmers...

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Ten fertile acres on West Hill will one day become training ground for a new generation of organic farmers producing local foods for local markets.

In a nod to the economic realities facing small-scale farming, the Farm Enterprise Incubator program aims to teach the business acumen necessary for a viable farm, according to Joanna Green, director of the Groundswell Center for Local Food & Farming.

The 10 acres, located at EcoVillage and managed by Groundswell, will provide beginner farmers the land and knowledge to one day branch off on their own.

“We’ll be doing quite a lot of business mentoring, really trying to help them get off to a solid start and learn the business management skills while they are also doing the production and marketing,” Green said of the initiative by Groundswell, part of the EcoVillage Center for Sustainability Education.

One acre of land has been tilled and planted with cover crop to be ready for one or two prospective farmers next spring, the first year of the incubator program.

Green envisions rows of mixed vegetables and room for livestock, as the “incubees,” as she calls them, work the land and learn the business. She said each student farmer will cultivate a fraction of an acre at first, then expend during the three-year individual course of study while receiving mentorship from a network of experienced farmers.

Sam Bosco, a graduate of Cornell University’s horticulture program and a volunteer at Groundswell, said the organization helps to spur a transition from the current model of large-scale, centralized farming that requires food to be shipped hundreds if not thousands of miles to market.

“I believe the resources and the systems that support that kind of agriculture aren’t going to be here forever, especially energy,” he said. That change to local markets supporting local food production will continue to develop in the coming decades, he predicted. “We are going to have re-think the way our systems work.”

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