Megan and I attended a course in Unity this past few months called Farm Beginnings. The title didn't hit me until the final session last week. I haven't really felt that I am at the beginning of anything; for me, farming has just been a chapter in a long saga of trying to make life add up to something. Megan was accepted late last year as a Journeyperson in the Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association (MOFGA) program for promoting farming as a way of life. Because of this, I was included in the course, and attended most of the sessions. Farm Beginnings was attended by maybe 20 people who all shared the status of beginning farmers (thus the name!) The itinerary consisted of 6 or 7 day long sessions where we were given countless reams of charts, graphs, spreadsheets, and various other materials aimed at teaching us the business of farming. Every month a presenter or two would describe their own experience at starting a small farm in Maine. Needless to say, the only presenters invited to speak were those with some degree of success, so that certainly helped somewhat with the morale, but overall, the curriculum was daunting at best.
The final segment of the class required representatives of each farm to write a business plan for their operation, and to make a presentation to the group. Deadlines and stand up talks never being my strong suit, one can imagine that the last week involved a fair amount of increasing stress at the old Six Point Farm sweatshop. Megan and I pulled together a whole winter's worth of made-up projections and turned them into (actual) data to plug into the plan. I have to say that when we finally ground it all out, it looked half-way believable. So here is the big plan in a nutshell.
This year we will plant 3 acres of squash, an acre of cabbage, and 4 acres of a wide variety of vegetables. We are enlisting CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) customers who will purchase shares in advance for weekly or biweekly vegetable deliveries over a 5 month period. We will increase our presence at the Farmer's Market in Houlton, open one or more roadside stands, ramp up our online sales, and with the 10,000 plus pounds of cabbage grown we will increase sauerkraut production to 6 or more batches per week. I plan to develop a wholesale delivery route around the state that will require about 5 days per month. Over a four year period we hope to grow our revenues at 33% annual growth in order to attain a stable business with a few more jobs.
So that is the dream that we came up with. The presentation day at the Farm Beginnings course was a very intense, emotional day where a dozen or so farm groups presented their life dreams. Most of the participants were way younger than me, and they all seemed so passionate about their plan that I can't imagine anything short of success. Megan and I went last, and mostly just winged it, presentation-wise, but I think we both went home with the feeling that we had been a part of something bigger than us. Small farming as a way of life needs to have a resurgence in this state and nation and world if there is going to be any hope for the future. I think we both came away from the Farm Beginning process feeling like we are doing our part.