Farmers were spotted all around the HOMEGROWN Village, overseeing exhibits and chatting with other concertgoers. I got a chance to speak with several farmers.
Melinda owns a produce farm in Kentucky. She only just got started, but is already providing 18 families with food. Melinda and her two partners have set up an informal CSA partnership with their local farmers’ market. Although Melinda practices organic farming, she is not USDA certified. Obtaining organic certification would be a costly process for Melinda, especially because her farm is not yet pulling in a profit. Nevertheless, Melinda is passionate about farming and will continue to do it even if she does not gain wealth.
During our conversation, Melinda was kind enough to introduce me to her good friend Carolyn, a member of the Community Farm Alliance. Carolyn is also a new farmer. She explained that the most difficult challenge for a new farmer is gaining access to land. Carolyn is happy to be apart of the Community Farm Alliance because of its initiatives that help get new farmers on land.
Roy owns a 94-acre beef, sheep and hog farm. His wife and two kids help run the Blue Rooster Farm which is located in South Central Pennsylvania. Along with working on the farm, Roy has another full-time job. Balancing the two jobs is not easy, but the additional income is necessary. According to Roy, being able to watch the natural progression of his farmland and having the opportunity to connect with consumers makes all of the work worthwhile.
Melinda, Carolyn and Roy highlighted three popular topics amongst farmers. Several young people would love to start farming, but do not have the resources or access to land. Also, it seems that several farmers are following organic practices, but do not have the means to obtain certification. Then there is the reality of farming profits. I met many farmers who have to work multiple jobs in order to support their families. Given the difficulties that go along with running a successful farm, it is even more remarkable when farmers continue to work an on-farm job and supply consumers with good food.
At the center of the HOMEGROWN Village, within the FarmYard, was an exhibit asking concertgoers: “Have you thanked your farmer?” That’s what Farm Aid 2012 was all about!