When interns begin their journey with the New Farmer Academy, the sheer amount of information there is to learn about food production can be overwhelming. In addition, there is often the perception that farmers need to know how to “do it all” – from tractor repair and electrical work to marketing and accounting – in order to run a successful business.
While it is true that farming is a multi-faceted occupation with a lot of moving parts, we reassure our interns early and often that they don’t need to know everything! They just need to know how to find the information they need. Resource identification is a key component of our program.
The very best resource, when you can get it, is someone you know personally who has expertise in a given area and is willing to share their knowledge. NFA interns leave our program with a network of professionals (and knowledgeable amateurs) they can go to for help, including their direct contact information.
A few weeks back we took the opportunity to pick the brains of some of the folks in our network to host a “Skill Share” day at Old Trail Farm. Interns learned some basic construction techniques, how to make and preserve jelly, and how to spin a wool fleece into yarn.
First, Brian Simko, my husband and the person in charge of construction projects around our homestead, helped the interns dismantle a shelving unit and rebuild it into two raised beds (with some leftover scrap lumber for future projects).
He then showed them how to preserve the wood using the shou sugi ban method. We used our flame weeder for that part!
Next, second-year NFA intern Becca Zak showed everyone how to make jelly from wild-harvested violets – a skill she learned at her mentor farm, Let’s Grow Akron, this season. She used the water bath canning technique on the portable stovetop we use for food demos at the market.
Finally, my friend Anton Sarossy-Christon, owner of Terravita Farms and the Newark Cultural Arts Center, showed us how to prepare a wool fleece and spin it into yarn. The fleece was a gift from Countryside board member Chuck Rankin, given to us when we attended a sheep shearing at his family farm last spring.
I am so grateful for the growing network of folks willing to share their time and knowledge with our interns! Together we are cultivating new farmers, building a strong local food system, and working towards Countryside’s mission, always, of connecting people, food and land.