As the days get shorter and the growing season draws to its inevitable frosty conclusion, NOFA-VT is bidding farewell to our most recent crop of Farm Beginnings® participants and gearing up for a whole new cohort of beginning farmers to join us for a year of in-depth learning and connection.
One farm that recently completed the program is Hunger Moon Farm in Fairfield. Colton and Dani are both midwesterners who came to Vermont looking for the perfect balance of good food, outdoor fun, and ample farming opportunities. They found all three in abundance living in Fairfield and working at Stony Pond Farm, an organic dairy. While working part-time on the farm Colton and Dani are also able to use some of the land at Stony Pond to incubate their own farm, starting out with a few goats as well as some meat and laying chickens.
It was through Melanie and Tyler, the owners of Stony Pond Farm, that they first heard about the Farm Beginnings program. With a year or so of raising animals already under their belt, the chance to participate in the program came about just as they were contemplating how to grow the business in a sustainable way. Colton remarks that, “the Farm Beginnings program was exactly what we needed to take that next step.” Colton especially appreciated learning about the financial elements of a business plan, like a cash flow analysis, balance sheet, and income statement.
It wasn’t all spreadsheets and farming-related math though. Colton and Dani revelled in the connection with other early-stage farmers that they could learn from and bounce ideas off of. “It was really awesome to hear other beginning farmers’ stories,” said Colton. “It was so motivating and reassuring that this is possible.” That connection with their cohort helped deepen their commitment to farming holistically, and held them accountable to meeting their business planning goals.
The business plan Colton and Dani developed will help them not only farm in a way that is personally sustainable, it also will inform future growth as they work to scale their business in a way that agrees with their values. Plans for the future include more goats and meat birds, as well as some vegetable farming - something that should be second nature given both of their vegetable growing experience prior to moving to Vermont. For now, you can find their eggs in Sweet Clover Market in Essex, and their meat is available on-farm in Fairfield.
Applications for NOFA-VT’s 2020-21 Farm Beginnings program are due September 14th! Contact Megan Browning at [email protected] if you think the program is right for you.