Cascadian Farm
Thank A Farmer
Rebecca Rising

To be successful as a small organic farmer, one must be willing, above all, to embrace complexity. I say this after attending the Tilth Alliance conference in Wenatchee, WA, and speaking as a relative newcomer to the organic food workforce.

Our vague cultural image of “farmer” as someone in a straw hat who drives a tractor up and down the rows while chewing a stem of grass does not begin to capture the depth and diversity of competencies that a person must develop in order to be a successful farmer. A farmer must have knowledge and skills in the following disciplines:

Engineer/ Machinist: Essential farm equipment is constantly breaking down at the most inopportune time. Farmers need to be quick on their feet to fix equipment in the field or alter equipment to do a slightly different job.  

Science: A farmer must have workable knowledge in many sciences as they relate to farming. Understanding the diversity of life within the soil biome that feeds the plant will help the farmer grow healthy soil for a heathy crop. To ensure adequate moisture, farmers need to pay attention to the hydrology of their soil. A farmer must take the “know thy enemy” approach to keeping their crops safe by studying up on entomology and lifecycles of common crop pests.   

Management: Staff, land, pests, inventory, data, risk, production – you name it; a farmer has to manage it.

Marketing and sales: In a culture where food is relatively cheap and abundant, the farmer must be creative and alert to a changing market place in order to remain competitive.

Bookkeeping and accounting: These skills are essential for any small business, and how competent a farmer is in the rest of the disciplines will be reflected in the bottom line.

In this season of thankfulness, there is ample reason to be grateful for the amazing people we call “farmers,” who devote their lives to steward the land in a way that enhances soil, protects biodiversity, and nourishes our bodies.

-Rebecca Rising

Cascadian Farm Home Farm

Farm Stand Manager

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