Go to Farm School

Back in the day, a person learned how to farm by osmosis: they’d been doing chores since they could walk. But then mid-20th-century agriculture policies caused farmers to hit hard times; many of them actually encouraged their children to pursue other careers. The ones who stayed took up industrial farming. A couple generations later, young adults are renewing their interest in small farms but have no personal background to lean on. Most university-level ag programs are geared toward the children of industrial farms. Who is passing on the knowledge of family-sized farming?

Ten years ago, almost no one was. But things have changed—quickly. Oregon State University has launched a Small Farms program. Rogue Farm Corps, a farming internship program, is expanding from southern Oregon into Portland and Bend. Friends of Family Farmers has a Next Generation campaign. All of them, and others, are working to replenish the supply of farmers that is aging out of the industry.

Last September, on a whim, I went to an all-day “Small Farm School” workshop. It is run by the OSU program on the Clackamas Community College campus. There were a number of courses to choose from. Since I already know how to garden, I chose “On-Farm Veterinary Care,” “Honey Bee Biology and Beekeeping Basics,” and “Invasive and Perennial Weeds.” You can see this year’s options and register on their website. Here are some pictures!

We learned about giving vaccinations

We learned about giving vaccinations

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We learned about hoof care

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We learned about pasture (this stick shows how tall your grass should be)

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We learned about bees and colony collapse disorder

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We learned about noxious weeds and how to combat them (I should have paid more attention when he talked about cheatgrass)

I had a great time and learned a lot. If you’re considering a career—or even a hobby—in farming, I recommend this workshop as a fairly inexpensive way to see how you like it!

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