The average age of the American farmer is currently 57, which worries many who are watching the U.S. food system. Luckily, Remy Van Grack and Maya Osterman, of Lindenmeier Farm, are part of a new generation of farmers determined to roll back that number. They generously share their time with me to offer some of their philosophy, experience, and advice for those interested in how to get started in small-scale agriculture.
Maya feels that farming enables herself and Remy to effect positive change on a personal level. According to Maya, small-scale organic and sustainable agriculture has become increasingly popular over the past few years for many reasons. She feels it is good for the local economy and culture, comparatively positive for the environment and community health, and small-scale agriculture helps with food security. Food security is a serious issue – a handful of multi-national corporations increasingly control the food system.
How to start? Remy gained diverse experience farming (or WWOOF-ing) in Thailand and New Zealand, as well as in Oregon. WWOOF, which stands for WorldWide Opportunities On Organic Farms, is an international network of farms that allows people to go live and work on a given farm and receive room and board. Remy also gained experience on Isabelle Farm and studied Horticulture at Colorado State University, with a minor in Organic Crop Production. Now, Lindenmeier Farm is in its second successful growing season!
Remy also has a talented partner in Maya, who not only is a teacher at a local elementary school, but helps significantly with the farm and community outreach. “Growing is the easy part,” Remy laughs. From his own experience, Remy encourages those interested in small-scale agriculture to plan the grounds carefully and to know the true expenses of the farm. He tells me that under ideal circumstances, an acre of land can profit a farmer $60,000 yearly, which is certainly a good salary. However, each farmer has to figure out what combination of farmers’ markets and CSA baskets is the most profitable, and if selling to restaurants and at roadside stands is beneficial.
Maya encourages those interested in learning more about growing vegetables to join a CSA, as a key component to CSA is about opening up a dialogue between farmers and consumers. She also suggests volunteering: Lindenmeier’s volunteers are primarily college students interested in the food movement, which is a heartening sign. Soon Maya and Remy will have more young farmers joining their community.
Peace and porridge,
Summer 2012 Denver Food Warrior