What if a community bought a farm?
What if a community, or a county, or a group of far-sighted investors or community developers bought a farm and hired a farmer or two for a living wage to manage that farm?
What if that farm was tasked with growing good food for the communities that need it most–for the schools and senior citizens and lower or fixed income residents?
And what if a major goal of this farm was also to teach other people how to farm sustainably?
What would that take? It wouldn’t have to be a big farm. Maybe ten or fifteen acres. You could do it on an intensively managed 5 acres and still have a couple kinds of livestock. Easily.
A teaching farm. A community farm. A farm that would engender interest in good, fresh food from the earth, as well as how to process it and preserve it for the table. A farm where people from the community could learn stewardship, cooking skills, animal husbandry.
How many young people could you teach? How many hands-on classes could you run? How many interns could you attract? How many other small farm start-ups could you encourage in the vicinity based on that one incubator project?
Could you provide housing for interns? Could you provide grant-writing workshops, marketing expertise, and other support services for local farmers? Could you teach cooking classes that started in the field and ended at the dinner table (or better, at the kitchen sink, washing the dishes)?
Think about our land-grant institutions, which were set up initially to teach people how to farm, to encourage research and experimentation for the good of the people. We’ve seen how their priorities have changed with the advent of big agribusiness funding. There are still many good programs and many wonderful people, but greed and censorship have too often reared their ugly heads.
This is not a big agribusiness-directed teaching farm. This is a farm that focuses on nurturing the community and its natural resources and providing food for the neediest of its neighbors.
A farm that teaches others to farm, and to build locally-based enterprises that benefit the community through long-term food security and long-term economic and environmental sustainability.