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!
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!