Friday, March 20, 2009

Farmer Blake

Thanks to the work of authors such as Michael Pollan and the growing popularity of the 100 Mile Diet, the demand for locally produced farm products has grown beyond what is available.  To help address this issue, K-State set up the Growing Growers program.  Growing Growers started as a response to requests by area organic growers for a training program to increase numbers of local organic producers.  Through Growing Growers, one can take part in a training program which facilitates on-farm apprenticeships complemented by workshops on critical skills.  The idea is to train new growers and improve the skills of existing growers to meet large demand for local and organically grown produce in the Kansas City metropolitan area.

I found out about this program just under a month ago.  Okay, I heard about it from Shari last year but it didn't really sink in until a friend of mine brought it up in February.  So I emailed the director and a whole slew of host farms with the hopes that Shari and I could take part in this program.

I suppose I should explain a bit here for those who know me but yet find themselves shocked that I am at all interested in farming.  For the longest time, I have dreamed of having a hobbie farm.  It wasn't one of those dreams that gets me into K-State to study agriculture.  I wasn't driven to go out and actually start a farm for profit.  Instead, it was a, "When I settle down, I want to have some land with crops, horses, chickens and goats."  Well I think we are a parcel of land away from this happening.  And should we end up selling our products to local vendors and at market, then great!

Of course, this is the small version of the dream.  The BIG version involves the above mentioned farm with a bed & breakfast and retreat center.  The retreat center would be rented out to groups who wish to do working retreats such as working on the farm!  Slick, eh?  Also, we could bring in at-risk kids during the summer months to get them reconnected with the earth.  Shari says it does wonders.  She would know!  Her masters is in counseling (she would run the at-risk part, by the way).  But it's real easy to get carried away in fantasies, especially big ones.

Regardless of where I end up, I have a good understanding of my next step and that's to get my hands dirty.  Shari and I visited several farms in the Kansas City area and each one as different as can be.  I know that I could learn so much from each one!  I talked with many people, sharing our dream and listened to their advice.  After many visits, Shari and I found a match with the Kansas City Community Farm.  The KCCF is a smal, two acre farm in Kansas City, Kansas, just six miles away from our house.  They have a monstrous greenhouse!  They rent out pallets to the community so that people can start their seeds.  Anyone can rent space there and I saw that some local farms, such as Badseed Farm (the farm that provides my favorite restaurant, Eden Alley, with their veggies), start their plants there.  They have had school groups come in to visit and work on the farm, something that Shari finds very appealing.  It seems to be a very busy place which means they have to run a tight ship.  This adds a layer of farm management which is attractive to me.  Also, the smaller size of the farm would be closer to what Shari and I would be dealing with.

Needless to say, I am very excited to be a part of this program.  I will keep you all up to date on what's going on with it.

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