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Growing the Next Crop of Farmers – Hosting and Mentoring Apprentices

January 25th, 2013 | Posted by miker in Events and Workshops - (Comments Off on Growing the Next Crop of Farmers – Hosting and Mentoring Apprentices)

NOFA-NJ Winter Conference; January 2013
Growing the Next Crop of Farmers – Hosting and Mentoring Apprentices

North Slope Farm –
Training Program; sponsored by; The Stewardship Guild

Farm Manager and Primary Trainer
Mike Rassweiler
Training Curriculum and Text Book: www.NorthSlopeFarm.com

North Slope Farm’s training program officially began in 2006, when the basic framework of Training assumptions were put to the test. Our business is operated as a completely open book, ideally introducing trainees to all the steps of business management. There is so much detail to Introduce trainees to that we break the operation down into Elements. (The Elements are listed as sub categories, under Training, on the right hand side of our Web Site). The first step in Training is to introduce the Elements, and start the process of prodding the Trainee to see the Operation as the sum of its parts. The Program will succeed only as a three year process, by the Third year the farm has the potential of benefiting from experienced workers who will help inspire and maybe challenge First and Second Year’s. Best case scenario, Third Years will be taking on their own Special Projects; that might provide other Trainees with additional avenues of exploration and inspiration. The Academic Piece of the Process, is the requirement, that all Trainees contribute to regular Monthly Summaries, Date Collection and Annual Summaries that are utilized to assess the farm’s production, strengths and weaknesses and potential viability.
• First Year- Trainees are introduced to as much as possible, and gain proficiency in Planting, Crop Care, Harvesting and Washing of hardy crops.
• Second Year- Mechanical equipment training is the focus in the second year, and Trainees must choose an Element as their “Element Focus”. This focus is the basis on which the Trainer can push the Trainee to express deeper understanding and responsibility for specific topics. Trainees must publish as Introduction and Summary of their Element Focus.
• Third Year- Trainees are expected to model good behavior, and set a standard of productivity and responsibility. They are also encouraged to branch out into Special Projects of their own, or better yet, to improve on existing systems so the Farm Operation will benefit. There is the Manager’s assumption that Third Years will be crew bosses for the morning shift (as needed) but given the freedom of self directed work in the afternoons (if possible). They are also responsible for an Element Focus, even to the point of describing the full function of an Element, assessing its value and striving to manage that reality. They must also publish their Introduction and Summary of their Focus and any Special Projects they undertake.

Teaching Philosophy: I look back to my exploration of Farming, and I always remember when my Mentor asked me, as we looked out over the fields, “what do you think we should do today?” It made me realize, in that moment, that I hadn’t really thought about it. My philosophy, in Training, is to put individuals in the position of Having to think about “What To Do”, ie. Provide them a safe space to take responsibility for achieving a farm goal. This creates a real problem for farm viability and growth. Farms survive and thrive by capitalizing on the Farmer’s strengths, providing space for workers to stumble directly negates the Farm’s efficency, but is the best way for workers to personalize the need to ‘Have a Plan” and “Develop the Skills.”
Training Process or “Formal Introduction and Practical Experience(s):
• Discussion and Presentation; often including related issues and options.
• Demonstration; practical information for “how to do it”.
• Practical Application with oversight
• Independent pursuit of activity to finalize the Trainee’s Understanding

Purpose of the Program and Societal Relevance: We need more farmers, farming more small farms, and that will not change. Those farmers need skilled and responsible workers and our Operations need to be professional, viable and sustainable. By fostering sound Training Opportunities, we will build the Trade back to the significance it held for generations, when local farms fed local populations.

Important Link and Mentoring Handbooks:

New England Small Farm Institute (NESFI)

Cultivating a New Crop of Farmers- is on-farm mentoring right for you and your farm?; Kate Hayes, Belchertown, Mass, NESFI

The On-Farm Mentor’s Guide – practical approaches to teaching on the farm; Miranda Smith, Belchertown, Mass, NESFI

NOFA NJ Twilight Meeting of Farming with Interns

July 25th, 2012 | Posted by Robin in Events and Workshops - (Comments Off on NOFA NJ Twilight Meeting of Farming with Interns)

NOFA’s Twilight meeting about Farming with Interns was hosted at North Slope Farm on Monday, July 22nd.  It was a friendly, laid back gathering of experienced farmers, new intern/farm workers and those who have recently discovered their love and interest in sustainable farming.  With participants sharing in a tasty potluck the evening was filled with stories of farming experiences, woes and successes.  The discussion focused on the need and draw backs of hiring inexperienced interns on the farm as well as fair compensation, including financial, living and learning rewards.  The evening was wrapped up with a tour of North Slope at dusk.

 

Girl’s Night at North Slope

January 26th, 2011 | Posted by Robin in Events and Workshops - (Comments Off on Girl’s Night at North Slope)

An open invitation to women interested in food…farmers, chiefs, friends and anyone who is curious is welcome to join us on February 4th at 6pm for a potluck dinner.  This casual gathering is a chance to meet and reunite with other women in the general area.  Since it is a potluck, bring your favorite dish, drink, something to share so we can all feast at the end of the week.  Network, relax, have fun.  Hope you can make it.

Girl’s Night Pot Luck

Location: North Slope Farm Farmhouse

1701 Linvale-Harbourton Road

Lambertville, NJ 08530

Date: February 4th (Friday), 2010

Time: 6pm

Questions? Please email robincm510@gmail.com with Girl’s Night in the subject line.

New Agricultural Ventures in New Jersey

October 27th, 2010 | Posted by miker in Events and Workshops - (Comments Off on New Agricultural Ventures in New Jersey)

New Agricultural Ventures

NOFA – NJ Twilight Meeting

At North Slope Farm

Audio Files and Index

October 26, 2010

  • Chickadee Creek Farm, Jess Nierderer
    • First full season: 2010, Pennington
  • Human Nature Farms, Brian Hulme and John Applegate
    • First season: 2008, Rutgers Eco Complex,
  • Jahs Creation Organic Farm, Matthew Bruckler III
    • First season (full time): 2009, Egg Harbor Township
  • Piping Goat Creamery, Natalie Hamill
    • First season: 2009 (first cheese in 2011), Lawrenceville
  • Z Food Farm, David Zaback
    • First season: 2010, Lawrenceville

Our intention in this presentation is to focus attention on New Agricultural Ventures – partly to honor them, in particular for their investment and commitment to agriculture in NJ, and partly to be sure their voices are part of the discussion about what does agriculture need to get reinvigorated and thrive in NJ.?

The panelists were asked to respond to the following questions –

You can hear their responses by clicking on the Audio Sections below:       

Audio section 1: 14:44 minutes

A brief description of their operations.

Brief descriptions of the practical elements of their operations – main crops, scale of operation, and market outlets.

Before preparing the ground, planting area and livestock management areas for production, the panelists describe their vision – how did they picture their operation, or themselves engaged with their venture – what was the original vision?

Audio section 2: 57:06 minutes

The panelists were asked to share a story or their thoughts about challenges they have faced so far.

Additionally, what resources did they identify that have helped, or could help.

Audio section 3: 23:08 minutes

Panelists were asked;

What advice would they offer to someone who might follow in their footsteps,

If their vision had changed, what was the new vision, and

What thoughts about their experience would they share with their community, so the community might seek to invest in and support their efforts, and the new operations to follow?

Audio section 4: 5:01 minutes

Panel discussion beginning introductions, including the audience, and end of the panel announcements – including NOFA-NJ will sponsor any new farmers (ten years or less) who will attend the upcoming NOFA-NJ Winter Conference!!

Mike Rassweiler, of North Slope Farm, facilitated the discussion and shares his perspective below:

My thanks to the many folks who made the evening possible; from the crew at NorthSlope who prepared a unique and pleasing environment in our greenhouse, Steve Tomlinson who provided our audio recording, NOFA-NJ for another season of informative Twilight Meetings, our audience and our panelists for taking the time and risk of speaking publicly about their ventures!!

The time went by quickly, without the opportunity to ask for more detail from the panelists, which is why we will use this post to provide an index for the discussion; names and links for mentors the panelists mentioned, definition for terms and any other details that might help.

As New Jersey remembers how to grow its own food and necessities right here in the Garden State, we will need to pay attention to the words of our farmers – new and old.  We need to support farmers by buying their products, supporting their efforts and asking for their perspectives!!

Please share what you learn in the Audio Recording above and email us if you have questions – we will update the index in an effort to illuminate!

(Draft) INDEX, Glossary and Links

Farmer Mentors and Farms mentioned:

  • Pam Flory, when at Spring Hill Farm in Hopewell.
  • Matthew Conver, Cherry Grove Organic Farm, Lawrenceville.
  • Kelly Harding, Cherry Grove Farm, Lawrenceville.
  • Herdsman at Cherry Grove Farm, Lawrenceville.
  • Jim Kinsel, Honeybrook Organic Farm, Pennington.
  • Rutgers Eco-Complex, Business Incubator.

Glossary of Terms:

  • CSA – community supported agriculture.  A term to describe the sale of shares of an operations anticipated yield.

Links:

New Agricultural Ventures in New Jersey

October 26th, 2010 | Posted by miker in Events and Workshops - (Comments Off on New Agricultural Ventures in New Jersey)

NOFA Twilight Meeting October 26, 2010

www.NOFANJ.org

New Agricultural Ventures – Investing in New Jersey Agriculture !

 NOFA Twilight Meeting at North Slope Farm – Tuesday 5 pm to 7 pm,

followed by Potluck dinner!!

 

Four New Ventures speak out for New Jersey Agriculture!

 

Human Nature Farms
Brian Hulme and partner John Applegate
908-601-2512

www.HumanNatureFarms.com
Brianhulme1@aol.com or Bhulme@HumanNatureFarms.com

We are in our third year of operation.  My business partner John Applegate and I are research assistants at the Rutgers Cooperative Extension on Monmouth County where we learned about Organic/Sustainable Agriculture.  When greenhouse space became available at the Rutgers EcoComplex we decided to start a business.  We received our Org Cert and began growing herbs and leafy greens and began selling to local grocery stores such as Wholefoods and other small misc grocery stores as well as distributors.  We are currently in the process of moving into the produce distributing/brokering/packing side of things and would like to expand into other non-produce items as well. 

In other words, our business is at a crossroads and are open to many various endeavors.  This makes even more excited to meet and talk with other like-minded growers/entrepreneurs.  You can feel free to call/email for any other questions or to discuss the specifics of the program in more detail at any time.

 

JAH’S CREATION Organic Farm

Matthew Bruckler III

www.jahscreation.com

jahscreation@aol.com or telephone 609 272-9538 

2009 was my first year farming full time. We sold 64 Summer CSA shares and 34 Winter CSA shares. This was done on 3 acres of ground and the greenhouses.

This year (2010) our CSA grew to 113 Summer CSA members and 60 Winter CSA members. This is being done on 3.5 acres of ground and the greenhouses. We are currently in the process of adding another 2 to 3 acres to our certification for next year and look to break the 200 CSA member mark.

Through the past 3 summers we also did some farmers markets, restaurant sales and a little wholesale as well. We are growing rather fast, but I am keeping everything well under control. We have grown transplants for another farm for the past 2 seasons and blended soil for another farm. We also sold our fertilizer (which we developed) to a landscape company for the past 2 years.

The land that we farm is split in 2 locations right now. We will be adding another location for next year. We own no land, but rent it all. We travel 20 miles between farms right now. Some days I have been between the two location up to 3 times.

The goal of our operation is to make a good living from the land. By that, I mean to say that I wish to live a financially comfortable life and be free to travel from time to time. I am very happy to be away from the stress of the construction business. Farming has its own stress, but I am more than prepared for it! Currently, besides myself, I have a part time driver, one full time employee and then 2 others who help out part time.

In 2011 I expect to have about 6 to 7 acres in very intense production. I anticipate that it will take myself, 3 full timers, and another 1 or 2 part timers to do the work for the season. I look to gross over $200,000.00 in 2011 by growing our CSA to over 200 members. We will also do restaurant sales, wholesales and a farmers market or two. We are currently installing low tunnels to extend our seasons and will also be adding high tunnels for next year, if finances allow us to.

I am confident that we will grow this farm into something really big within the next 3 years, but I will have to spend a fortune to prime the pump! I expect that we will be one of the most well respected Certified Organic Farms in the state of New Jersey well before the year 2015. I will have to think about how far I want to go after that. I just might settle down and enjoy the comforts of farming, or maybe I will go all the way and make an empire out of this thing!

 Run for cover!     Run for cover!     Rasta Taking Over! 

 

Chickadee Creek Farm

Jess Niederer

ChickadeeCreekFarm@gmail.com

First production season began with spring harvests – March 2010.

Chickadee Creek Farm currently is producing produce and flowers on two acres.

Market outlets include two Farmers Markets, a ‘market share’ allowing customers to utilize prepaid credit to stock up at markets, including a sliding scale discount… And Restaurant Specialty Sales to The Brothers Moon, in Hopewell and Busters Café, in NYC.

 Goals for Chickadee Creek operator are best heard in person!  Not least of which are making great food accessible to all and real farm income to support the reality of owning land in NJ.

 

Z Food Farm

David Zaback

www.ZFoodFarm.com

 First production season began with spring harvests – 2010.

Renting land in Lawrenceville, Z Food Farm is a “diverse vegetable farm” with market outlets including Farmers Markets, a roadside stand and Specialty Restaurant Sales.

 Another reason to listen to the driving force behind New Agricultural Ventures, a “simple” goal for Z Food Farm is to provide great food and great food variety to its surrounding community.

 

Piping Goat Creamery

Natalie Hamill

nathamill@gmail.com

First production is expected in June of 2011, but to achieve that, breeding goats were purchased and have been managed since 2009.

Establishing herself on family land in Lawrenceville, the Piping Goat Creamery is intended to augment existing farmstand sales and wholesale accounts.

NOFA-NJ Twilight Meeting

September 9th, 2010 | Posted by miker in Events and Workshops - (Comments Off on NOFA-NJ Twilight Meeting)

NOFA-NJ Twilight meeting at North Slope Farm .

Tuesday, October 26th at 5 pm.

At ‘The Farmhouse’ at North Slope Farm, 1701 Route 579, 08530

located on corner of Route 579 (b/w Routes 518 and 31) and Rock Road East.

Twilight Meeting to focus on a few of New Jerseys ‘New Agricultural Enterprises, featuring their operators, discussing the season with North Slope Farm’s owner/operator, Mike Rassweiler.

Also see www.nofanj.org for more events – and become a member!!

NOFA Summer Conference 2010

September 1st, 2010 | Posted by steven in Events and Workshops - (Comments Off on NOFA Summer Conference 2010)

The NOFAsummer conference in Amherst, MA was inspiring. We started the journey with a three hour field salad harvest at 6am with our friend Ryan, who used to work at Cherry Grove Organic Farm. After the harvest we began the drive up to the summer conference. We arrived just in time to make a two mile bike ride to U Mass and hear Bill MacKently, from St. Lawerence Nurseries, talk about alternative energy on the farm. He was enthusiastically spreading do-it-yourself construction of renewable energy sources. Saturday morning started off with Robert Fuqua describing how a 4 cycle engine works, repair techniques, and where to get parts. Next stop was Agroforestry in the Northeast taught by Conor Steadman and Mia Frank. This was a great introduction to permaculture. Small fruit on a organic farm, by Julie Rawson and Jack Kittredge, went into production techniques for blueberries, blackberries, gooseberries, grapes, currants, and elderberries.  After the workshop we got an amazing tour of Hampshire College CSA. They didn’t have a weed in sight! Saturday night consisted of finding a guitar case for Sam in a dumpster, riding a moped around a corn field, and meeting more friendly people that are into sustainable ways to approach life. Sunday morning started off with Potato Culture, by Bryan O’Hara of Farms at Tobacco Road Farm in Lebanon, CT. This peaked my intrest in potato growing. I stayed for his next lecture on winter production techniques. He explained cost effective ways of extending your season in the field, and how to direct seed crops in December for an early harvest in spring. After the conference we drove to Battleboro, Vermont. We stayed at Harvest Hill Farm where we fed their four pigs and took a walk through their vegetable and herb garden. It was an a amazing time. Sam and I left Ryan at his home, a converted chicken shack, and headed back to NJ with a culture for Kumbucha while listening to Tilth.

Tomato Fight – September 12, 2010

August 26th, 2010 | Posted by miker in Events and Workshops - (Comments Off on Tomato Fight – September 12, 2010)

Tomato Fight – words have so many meanings…

Our intent is Fun, Celebration and Sharing – space, time…

Our 4th annual, the Tomato Fight began many thousands of years ago, September 12, 2010 will be one more in the history of tomato pickers, family and friends, around the world.

Party starting at 6 pm – Tomato fight begins before Dusk.

Nomad Pizza will be there serving their specialities – Pizza, More Fun, Serious Perspective and Playful Insight…

There will be T-Shirts ($12 each), and a contribution box.

Bring a change of clothes, swimsuits optional, BYOBeverage.

If you want your farm recognized “officially” please bring a few buckets (at least) of Soft Tomatoes.  Ultimately, the vision of farms, sponsoring teams (with tomatoes) has been shaping.  To date, the rules are:

Soft Tomatoes Only – with stems removed.

Tomatoes are not intended to Hurt – but YES to SPLAT!

Stay in the Tomato Fight Area, as designated by “Hey You, get back to where the other crazy people are!”

Don’t go into the Fight Area unless you are prepared to be Splatted by Tomatoes.  Wear Shoes and Assume You Will Get Hurt !

If new to the event, please introduce yourself, the t-shirt Table near the Pizza Truck will be a good place.

Questions? Please email NorthSlopeFarm@comcast.net with TF2010 in the Subject line.