Farming can be lonely work. Most true farmers are driven by a passion the rest of us simply can’t understand. As hard as we try, we will never understand why someone would choose to live by seasons and weather and product prices that are beyond their control. Why give up a nice, cushy desk job with perks like air conditioning for a life battling drought, pests, and consumers who don’t get what you do?
Thankfully, there is hope for farmers everywhere, and it comes in the form of several active organizations, one of which is Community Farm Alliance. I was invited to come check out C.F.A. a few weeks ago at the Beginning and Future Farmer Field Day, which was held on the farm at the University of Kentucky.
In short: it was amazing. The weather didn’t cooperate, so the tours of the U.K. farm were cut short, but no one seemed concerned. Plenty of farming love (and delicious food) were still shared by all. There were over eighty people there, from seasoned farming veterans ready to share their wisdom to beginning farmers and those just considering commercial farming.
The diverse group shared a passion for feeding people great food and doing it in ways that are sadly still considered unconventional. Many of the struggles that I’ve learned about through my Young Farmers series were echoed here. Things like lack of access to land, lack of support systems that are available to traditional farmers, lack of health care, marketing struggles, the need to work off-farm to make ends meet… just to name a few.
I felt a renewed sense of passion for what I do—promoting Kentucky farms and the consumers who want to find them. Sometimes I feel discouraged that what I love (running Sustainable Kentucky) isn’t what pays my bills… But seeing each of these farmers and the hunger in their eyes made me realize that I am not alone. As long as these farmers are out there struggling to make ends meet, to put food on their own tables, to pay their doctor’s bills when they are injured, working around the clock just to feed their neighbors healthy food…. then budget be damned, I am going to keep writing about them.
The fact is though I am quite late to the party of helping farmers. The good folks at C.F.A. have spent the last 20+ years working on behalf of Kentucky farms. To quote their website, “Since 1985 Community Farm Alliance has been building positive relationships between farmers, consumers, legislators, and communities. ” More than just providing a social network, C.F.A. works to change the actual living and working conditions of farms by developing unique and innovative programs to provide them with the support they need to succeed as a business.
C.F.A. has helped establish farmers markets where none were previously located. They’ve worked on farm-to-school programs, providing local farmers with new avenues to sell their produce while simultaneously getting fresh foods to the schools that need them most. They’ve fought against state and federal policies, like the National Animal Identification System, that would be detrimental to small-scale farmers. They’ve helped projects get off the ground like Stone Soup, a unique community kitchen in Louisville, and Grasshopper’s Distribution, a take-off on the community supported agriculture model that is providing many Kentucky farmers with a great way to sell their goods and consumers with a convenient way to buy them.
Every farmer in the state should be an active member of this grassroots organization. The more members, the louder the voice, the more that can be accomplished. While I am not a farmer, I chose to join C.F.A. (at the bargain price of $25/year) because it is another small way that I can support farmers throughout the state of Kentucky.
Mark your calendar for their next field day, held October 13th at Barr family farms. Trust me when I say that you can’t really drive too far for this event. (People from all around the state were at the field day I attended.)
It is worth the drive to connect with others who are doing what they are passionate about.
You can read more about the Field Day at the Community Farm Alliance website.