Monthly Archives: January 2013

Event Journal: Explore Farming!

Written by Trevor Cullen, a student at the University of Massachusetts Lowell.

On December 12, I went to New Entry’s Lowell office anticipating sitting in on my first Farm Business Planning Course; however a wrong turn led me to sit in on the Explore Farming! class, which ended up being a great one for a newcomer like me to attend. It was led by Sam Anderson, who fielded questions from another diverse group of both already established farmers and those interested in entering the business. It was a smaller class, with eight other people besides me.

One of the points of conversation that stuck out most to me was the continuous stressing of the fact that quality of life should be the main motivating factor for a farmer, or someone interested in becoming one. In the class it was recognized and understood that as a small farm, making a substantial profit, especially during the first few years, is a challenge. A more realistic goal is breaking even during the beginning. So the lifestyle, not potential profit, should be a farmer’s biggest motivating factor. I thought this was such an intelligent point to bring up to those who were interested in beginning their own farm.

There were a couple other smaller points of conversation from the course that I enjoyed as well. One was the fact that you don’t need a barn and a silo to be a successful farm, meaning there’s a misconception out there that successful farms need to have hundreds of acres of land, a fleet of tractors and the trademark barn and silo. This is not so, Sam stressed. There are plenty of small farms that have plenty of great produce from small plots of land. The last thing that I thought was smart to address were the alternatives to starting your own farm. During the last part of the class, we discussed how if you weren’t sure the farming lifestyle was for you, or you didn’t have the money to start your own farm, there are other options out there, such as landing a job as a worker on a farm, finding an apprenticeship, or researching and networking to better understand the farming market.

As someone who is still new to New Entry, I thought this was an outstanding course for an outsider with an interest in farming to attend. From the basic concepts and suggestions, to the lack of pressure to do anything but listen, the class was a great starting point.

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In Memory: Mr. Kim

By Matthew Himmel, former New Entry and World PEAS Marketing Manager

If you have ever bought amaranth greens, water spinach, Asian cucumbers or bitter melon at the Lowell Farmers Market or received them in your World PEAS CSA share, most likely it was grown by Visoth Kim (“Mr. Kim” to all of us at New Entry) and his family. Intensively managing a small farm in Dracut, Massachusetts, Mr. Kim was the principle supplier of most Southeast Asian crops at the Lowell and Lawrence Farmers’ Markets as well as one of the most prolific growers for the World PEAS cooperative-and one of the first farmers New Entry ever worked with. Mr. Kim passed away late last year after a long illness.

Mr. Kim emigrated from Cambodia, where he was a teacher and a farmer. After arriving in the U.S., Mr. Kim worked in electronics manufacturing, but continued to grow vegetables in his backyard, selling any surplus in his community. After joining New Entry’s first Farm Business Planning Course in 2003, Mr. Kim met John Ogonowski, who provided Mr. Kim and several other early New Entry farmers with a plot on his family’s land in Dracut. During periodic trips back to Cambodia, Mr. Kim continued to teach, this time showing farmers the novel farming practices, such as drip irrigation, which he had come to use on his Massachusetts farm.

The community of New Entry staff and farmers have benefited greatly from Mr. Kim’s contribution to the organization. Organized, thoughtful and hard-working, Mr. Kim has provided a role model to farmers of efficient, intensive production. Personable and savvy, he demonstrated successful marketing, selling through a variety of retail and wholesale channels. Sincere, gregarious and undeniably photogenic, Mr. Kim also became one of New Entry’s best ambassadors.

I recall a World PEAS shareholder meeting in Andover that Mr. Kim attended. After discussing the mechanics of the CSA, shareholders had the opportunity to talk to Mr. Kim. He described his passion for growing high quality produce and a desire to keep his customers healthy. His testimony demonstrated the value of supply chains that are short enough that farmers and customers can know one another. His warm smile remains prominently featured in most of New Entry’s literature and on the large mural, hand-painted on the cooler for World PEAS farmers.

His wife and sons plan to continue farming on the same plot, and selling the same crops to the World PEAS Cooperative. Mr. Kim will be dearly missed by all of us who knew him as our farmer and friend.

Posted in New Entry news, On the Farm, Small farmer | Comments Off

Event Journal: Farm to School Workshop

Written by Trevor Cullen, a student at the University of Massachusetts Lowell.

Last month, I attended the Farm-to-School workshop hosted by New Entry Sustainable Farming Project and led by the Massachusetts Farm to School Project. As someone completely new to the organizations, I came with an open mind and many questions. Who would be attending this workshop? What exactly would the purpose of the meeting be? Was I going to be surrounded by old men in overalls, chewing on stalks of straw?

As it turned out, the workshop consisted of a diverse crowd of both farmers and people who were not yet farming, but interested in the process of supplying food to schools. The two women running the workshop were well organized and prepared to answer any questions. The book provided by them for the workshops attendees proved to be a great tool for following along during the meeting, and a source to use afterwards.

I found that although I came to the workshop with no strong sentiments of what to expect, I learned a great deal. Being a college student, the idea of small, local farms supplying fruits and vegetables to a school was pertinent to me. There were a couple of facts that struck me as particularly fascinating. First, I was happy to learn that recently there has been a massive overhaul in the federally run school lunch program; in order to get government support, a school lunch program has to meet certain guidelines, containing a certain percentage of veggies according to their different colors. Another topic addressed that caught my attention was that multi-national corporations like Aramark can only buy produce from farmers that are GAP certified and have at least five million dollars’ worth of liability insurance. So while I want nothing more than for the farmers’ stands in Dracut or Tyngsboro to be able to sell their apples or pears to UMass Lowell, unfortunately it’s not that easy.

Leaving the Farm-to-School workshop, I was impressed with how well the workshop had been run, and how easy it was for me to jump right in and quickly get a grasp on what was going on. From federal guidelines to commonsense advice like labeling all your produce in order to gain some name recognition, I enjoyed learning about how small time farmers could begin to make a difference, and profit while doing it.

Posted in Local food, Marketing, Partners | Comments Off

Becca Weaver: Farmland Advisor

Becca at greenhouse workshopNew Entry’s own Becca Weaver has been selected to participate in Farmland Advisors, a new training program on farm transfer and farmland access options designed for professionals working with farmers and landowners.

With nearly 25 percent of the farmland in New York and New England owned by farmers aged 65 and older, transferring land to the next generation of farmers poses a significant challenge. The Farmland Advisors program was launched to strengthen the network of professionals capable of working with farmers and landowners on transferring farm businesses and farmland and aiding new farmers in securing land.

The two-year training program will be led by American Farmland Trust, a nationwide farmland conservation organization, and Land For Good, an organization that helps provide farmland access, farm transfer planning, land planning, and farm use agreements. Funding is provided by a Northeast Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education (SARE) Professional Development Grant.

Becca, who coordinates New Entry’s Farmland Matching services and the Beginning Farmer Network of Massachusetts, was one of 80 participants from the Northeast selected to participate in the Farmland Advisors program. Participants include Cooperative Extension educators, land trust staff, agricultural service providers and other professionals working with farmers and farmland owners. Farmland Advisors addresses this challenge of facilitating farm transfer by educating participants through a series of progressive learning and networking opportunities, including webinars, a regional conference, and peer-to-peer exchanges about farmland and farm transfer issues.

For more information about Farmland Advisors, contact Diane Held at (716) 471-7134 or dheld@farmland.org

Posted in Farmland, New Entry news | Comments Off