Beginning farmers face a myriad of challenges and obstacles along their chosen career path. Operating and owning a farm has become much more difficult since the advent of the industrialized agriculture system. New farmers today face a steep learning curve, expensive prices for farmland, and high start-up costs. Despite all that, statistics from the USDA’s Agricultural Census indicate that─especially here in Maine─the numbers of small farms are continuing to grow as more and more young people turn to farming and gardening as a way of life.
For more details about the challenges beginning farmers face, check out this article I put together back in 2014.
There are lots of great resources out there to help new farmers find success; for this article I asked colleagues in the Call Center at Johnny’s Selected Seeds what resources they’d found most helpful along their journey as gardeners and farmers. Check out their responses below!
Chance Gonyer ─ Seasonal Call Center representative; farms at Collective Roots Farm in Cornville, Maine.
The Johnny’s website. Their “Growing Center” offers a spectrum of resources, including the Growers’ Library, their Growing Ideas blog, a video library, and a number of super helpful tools and calculators. You can find growing instructions and tips for specific crops, videos demonstrating the use of a variety of tools, methods and crops, and help planning your gardens.
Kamala Hahn ─ Call Center representative; farms at Buttermilk Hill Farm in Belgrade, Maine.
The internet. You can find the answer to just about anything on the web.
Ken Hahn ─ Seasonal Call Center representative; farms at Buttermilk Hill Farm in Belgrade, Maine.
Meeting and talking to other farmers and growers. Skeptically reading great books. Accepting feedback from the earth.
Erin Reardon ─ Contact Center and Scheduling Lead; avid gardener.
Why my Johnny’s catalog of course! I use it all the time for planting depths, spacing, temps, pests, harvesting and storage guidelines.
Bernadette Heyse ─ Call Center Representative; avid gardener
When I first started my gardening business in the 90’s, I was at a lost on how to proceed and gain knowledge. I always had a vegetable garden starting in my 20’s and I had numerous flower gardens. My first flower gardening job was working with a dear friend of mine who had a gardening business at the time. She hired me as an assistant and paid me 5.00 an hour. She was my mentor and within a short period of time she turned me on to someone who needed a flower gardener. I ended up working for the woman for 12 years – I filled 16 window boxes and numerous flower gardens for this client. I started buying books on annuals, perennials, bulbs and shrubs, my favorite series of gardening books is “Taylor’s Guide to Gardening.” I carried the books back and forth as questions would always arise. I took the Master Gardener class with the focus on flowers and I was on my way pursuing what I love to do. Of course these days I turn to the web for help!
Jason Albert ─ Call Center Representative; works part-time farming at Moss Flower Farm in Sangerville, Maine.
Johnny’s Selected Seeds and Checkerberry Farm have been helpful for me, since I work for them I can get stuff for free or dirt-cheap.
Sarah Ingalls ─ Seasonal Call Center Representative; avid gardener.
The MOFGA journey-person program & other people’s farms.
Paul Gallione ─ Johnny’s Information Specialist; farms at Moosehead Trail Farm in Waldo, Maine.
The moral support of others, the Cooperative Extension, and my own determination.
Me! Samantha Burns ─ Seasonal Call Center Representative; farms at Runamuk Acres Farm & Apiary in Starks, Maine.
For me, the internet has always been the most helpful resource in my pursuit of the farming lifestyle; but the connections I’ve formed with other farmers and gardeners is irreplaceable.
Support beginning farmers
As the community of veteran farmers continues to age, supporting beginning farmers and small farms is becoming more important than ever before. Having the tools and resources needed to succeed can make or break a new farmer’s operation, yet despite the obstacles farming is growing in popularity. The people who work at Johnny’s have a spectrum of experiences to draw from; if these resources have proved useful for them, I’m certain they will be useful to you too!
What have you found to be a most invaluable resource along your journey as a farmer, gardener, or beekeeper? Feel free to leave a comment and share with other beginning farmers!