March 4, 2012

The small-farm dream

In today's world, full-time farmers make up a very small percentage of our population and yet are a vital part of our national and local economy.

We take for granted that a large variety of food will be affordable and available. While a great deal of today's agricultural products are grown on large-scale farms all over the country, consumers today are beginning to see the value of purchasing some of their food from local producers.

Not too long ago, perhaps within the last two generations, most of our local ancestors were small farmers. Much of our food was produced and sold locally. While the economic landscape has changed, the farmland still exists and the dream of living on a farm in the country still infects a lot of people.

In my case, while I did not grow up on a farm, both my parents grew up on New York dairy farms and I always felt that farming was in my blood. From an early age I owned and raised a multitude of farm animals — goats, sheep, rabbits, chickens and horses — all in a suburban back yard.

Through my experiences in a local 4-H Club, I gained an even greater interest in all aspects of farming and animal husbandry. This led me to pursue a degree in agriculture at Cornell University.

Since I did not have an existing family farm to come back to after college, I went to work for a local farmer and then for an agricultural cooperative. All this time I kept my small-farm dream alive.

My family had purchased an old farm in Schuyler Falls where I began raising dairy heifers and slowly but surely I worked to bring an abandoned farm back into productive use. With many hours of hard work building fences, fixing old machinery and scouting farm auctions for good deals, I pieced together the farming dream that I had always sought.

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