Remember me?

City Slicker

By Linda Haley

(New Woodstock, NY – Feb. 2012) Remember me? I’ve been on hiatus busily packing and planning my move to Madison County permanently!

It’s been a long time (June?) since I’ve written; I’ve been overwhelmed managing the details. Good news: my city house is on the market! Bad news-my farming/horsey life has been on perpetual hold, my belongings stored over two counties while I’ve started yet another new job.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m grateful everyday just to be employed in this economy, but my soul cries out for time in the saddle, a stroll in the fields and time to stare at stars in an open sky.

I need barn time! Well, at least I have my seed catalogs.

More good news: I took every opportunity to do whatever I could fit in all summer long, so I have lots to write about for future columns, kind of a “What I Did Over Summer Vacation.”

I finished my Beginning Women’s Farming course, already putting some of what I learned into action at my host farms. The best thing I got from the course was a personal mentor plus a network of farmers from all over the northeast. Farming folks to grill and learn from, so I’ll stumble less moving forward.

I had a blast in class, often gushing about Madison County and guess what? My mentor moved her farm here! How cool is that? I’m so lucky! My mentor is Tricia Park, of Creekside Meadows.

Trish, husband Matt and 15-year-old son Cam now own a 150-acre farm in New Woodstock. They raise grass-fed beef and pasture-raised chicken, turkey and pork. Recently they re-started their egg business with Cam at the helm.

Trish herself is a graduate of the Beginning Women’s Farming Program; she went on to mentor future classes. Trish is my hero. She was like me – no farming background, trained as a mechanic in the Air Force and not thinking about farming until she met her husband. He was from a farming background and wanted to get back into it.

Trish and her family began farming as a hobby but used what she learned in class to turn it into an agricultural business. Trish willingly shares her farming ups and downs with anyone who asks. She is a huge resource on so many fronts, with an impressive corral of experts. I was thrilled to be paired with her.

Her first farm was 26 acres and fraught with challenges of flooding, limited pasture space and inability to manage rented pastures in a manner supporting her holistic goals. Trish applied lessons from class: financial planning, rotational grazing, soil fertility, product diversity and marketing to turn her bigger, better farm dream into a reality.

Remember my columns on whole-farm planning, goal-setting and soil fertility? At Creekside Meadows, I can see it all first hand, right in New Woodstock. This fall, I was invited to her farm to process chickens. That’s right: me, the city slicker got schooled into a precision chicken processor.

That’s a whole other column!

Now my mentor has been selected to speak about her experiences at a national level. Trish will give the after-dinner talk and conduct break-out sessions at a two-day regional conference at the Amherst campus of the University of Massachusetts.

While the conference is designed for current and past HMI “Beginning Women Farmers in the Northeast” program participants, it’s open to their farm partners AND anyone else interested in whole farm planning. The overall goal is to educate participants about whole farm planning to help farmers achieve improved quality of life, profitability and land health.

So for all those people who have asked me how they can get into farming and be successful, go to the conference. Attendees will learn from experts in the field about ways to farm successfully – no matter how long they’ve been farming – and network with other farmers in the Northeast to share tips and learn about farming resources.

People interested attending in the conference may obtain more information and register in advance online at holisticmanagement.org/conferencebwfne/.

So while I’ll be sharing her wisdom in future columns, this is your chance to experience whole farm planning first-hand and say hello to your new Madison County neighbor Tricia Park of Creekside Meadows in New Woodstock.

Linda J. Haley is a freelance writer specializing in rural and agricultural topics. She can be reached at linda@m3pmedia.com.

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