Growing the Next Generation of Farmers

by Stephanie Campbell, CFSA’s Outreach Coordinatoralexander-acres-eoy-2016

“When I learned that I (or insert: my mother, spouse, child, loved one, etc.) had a serious health condition, I began to learn of the link between nutrition and disease. I was astounded to learn that there is a link between the food we eat and eighty percent of diseases!”

This is the most frequent answer we receive at CFSA when we ask people why they buy organic and why they buy from a farmer they can trust.

For Dylan Alexander, his diagnosis of Multiple Sclerosis eleven years ago led to growing his own food and then growing for others on his own farm. The medications Dylan was prescribed only seemed to make him feel worse. He began to learn more about the link between his diet and his health. “The ability of people to heal themselves through diet and natural supplementation resonated with me and spurred a change that has since redefined my path and purpose. Alexander Acres was created as a way to share this knowledge and the benefits of fresh, organic fruits and vegetables.”

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Lomax is one way CFSA is working to develop new, younger farmers in the Carolinas. As Dylan points out, “We all have to eat, so we need people growing our food.”

As an aspiring farmer, Dylan learned of and was accepted into the CFSA Lomax Incubator Farm program. As a Farmer-In-Training (FIT) at Lomax, Dylan has access to land and equipment, mentoring, classroom instruction on the business of farming, and hands-on farm experience in organic practices and certification. Along with gaining skills, he is actually developing and managing his own agricultural business start-up. Now beginning his third year in the program, Dylan and his wife, Kelly, have moved to Concord from Charlotte and are preparing to farm on land of their own in the next couple of years.

At Lomax, Dylan has been developing some niche products to provide diversity and marketing opportunities in addition to growing the farmers’ market favorites. He grows microgreens at his home for the restaurant market and mushrooms on logs in the woods at Lomax. He has also become known for his skill at producing exceptional organic transplants, which are valued by other farmers and home gardeners. Kelly is a graphic designer and, in addition to handling the website and social media for the farm, does canning and sauce-making which may lead to some value-added products eventually.

alexander-acres-photo-3-web2Dylan and Kelly love sharing good food with their family and friends, and their growing number of customers. “People notice the incredible difference in the taste of fresh, organic food,” Dylan shares, “and then they begin to learn of the health benefits, too.”

The bottom line for Dylan and Kelly is that they are committed to growing good, clean, healthy food and they want people to know what good, clean, healthy food can do for their lives.

“The FIT program at Lomax made it possible for me to go from a home gardener to a farmer,” said Dylan. “I would have stumbled around trying to figure things out on my own and probably failed. At Lomax I have learned the skills I need, established a viable farm business and customer base, and have a network of resources and people to continue to help me succeed.”

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The average age of American farmers is 58 and increasing. Less than 2% of the population in our country is now farming. Lomax is one way CFSA is working to develop new, younger farmers in the Carolinas. As Dylan points out, “We all have to eat, so we need people growing our food.”

Young farmers like Dylan and Kelly can’t do it without you.

Your gift today will provide the training and support another new FIT at Lomax needs to succeed and provide us ALL with the food we need in the Carolinas.

Please give generously.

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Please give today. You can donate online at /give, by calling us at 919-542-2402

Beginning Farmers – the Future of our Food System

One of our 2015 inspiring member stories

by Stephanie Campbell, CFSA’s Outreach Coordinator

The USDA estimates that about 70% of farmland will change hands over the next two decades.

 

The average age of farmers today is 57.

 

As many as 50% of US farmers will retire in the next ten years.

 

Ben Street - Lomax FIT

Just two years ago Ben Street was living and working in front of a computer in Charlotte, NC, when he realized what he would really love to be doing was farming. He grew up in the suburbs of D.C. with no background in farming but he had always cared about fitness, which led to an interest in nutrition, which led to finding out where his food came from, which led to farming. He realized that he liked hard work and good food, wanted to maintain an active outdoor lifestyle, and was energized by the idea of providing healthy food for the community.

So, he went online looking for local farms and emailed almost fifty farmers, offering to volunteer. Joe Rowland, of Rowland’s Row Family Farm, responded. Joe was a Farmer-in-Training (FIT) at the Elma C. Lomax Incubator Farm in Cabarrus County, NC. Joe and Ben talked about farming over weeding bush beans and soon Ben was attending all of the training meetings at Lomax and spending weekends volunteering at Joe’s farm. Fast forward to this year when Ben became a FIT at Lomax himself.

Living in a pop-up camper to save money. Farming evenings and weekends after a full-time day job. Up and out by 5 a.m. on Saturdays to sell at the farmers market where sales are as variable as the weather. Huge learning curves in soil science, growing a variety of crops, planning crop rotations, pest management, irrigation, harvesting, processing, food safety, equipment operations and maintenance, organic standards, marketing, taxes, licenses and business planning . . . this is Ben Street’s life as a beginning farmer.

“Programs like Lomax are necessary to ensure the future of sustainable food systems, which will surely become increasingly imperative to the survival of humanity. Lomax has provided me with the tools and resources necessary to attain a real world experience in what it takes to be a farmer.” – Ben Street

“Do you feel like quitting?” I ask him. “Sometimes,” he admits.

But then he lights up and shares how exciting it is to see something grow; to know that he is providing nutrient-dense and fabulous, healthy food for his community; how he is inspired by the other new farmers and the wisdom of seasoned farmers; how rewarding it is to be working in tune with nature; how thrilled he is to be part of a movement which is creating a viable, sustainable future for us all.

This is where CFSA and the Elma C. Lomax Incubator Farm in Cabarrus County, NC, make the difference. Farmers-in-Training (FITs) like Ben gain access to land and equipment, specialized training and support, and the essential hands-on mentoring from qualified and experienced successful farmers which they need to succeed.

Now knowing firsthand what it takes to be a farmer, Ben announced that he has committed full-time to farming as a FIT at the Lomax Incubator Farm! CFSA congratulates him and the other Farmers-in-Training at Lomax for their vision and commitment to becoming sustainable farmers. With the financial support of our donors, CFSA will be able to continue to provide the training and resources they need to join the ranks of successful farmers in the Carolinas.

Give today

Your gift to CFSA is one of the best ways you can support local farmers and champion food that is good for consumers, good for farmers and farmworkers, and good for the land.

Please give today.

You can donate online at /give or mail a check to CFSA, PO Box 448, Pittsboro, NC 27312.

Thank you!