NCAT Southeast’s Regional Director Margo Hale had a busy August traveling to the Northeast, where she joined NCAT’s Northeast Regional Director Andy Pressman in facilitating two Armed to Farm events. Read on for Margo’s report about how she spent part of her summer.
Queensbury, New York, July 31-August 4
Twenty-five attendees from all over New York State participated in this Armed to Farm. It was the third Armed to Farm held in New York as part of NCAT’s partnership with Cornell’s Small Farms Program. Staff from Cornell, as well as NCAT Livestock Specialist Lee Rinehart, joined us to help with the week’s activities.
We held classroom sessions on business planning, recordkeeping, marketing, and more. Andy presented on vegetable production, whole-farm planning, and market farming. I gave talks on digital tools for the farm, recordkeeping, and branding.
Our farm tours took us to a variety of operations, including: market farms raising fruit, vegetables, herbs, and cut flowers; a grass-fed beef farm; a grass-fed dairy cattle farm; a livestock operation that raises pastured pigs, chickens and dairy goats, and produces goat cheese; and a farm that raises malting barley and hops. The final farm tour was at Paul and Sandy Arnold’s Pleasant Valley Farm, a very successful diversified vegetable operation. Paul and Sandy speak at conferences, train and support new farmers, and are well-respected growers and farm managers. It was amazing for Paul to share his wisdom with the group.
We were grateful to the representatives from USDA’s Farm Service Agency (FSA) and Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), who presented about ways their programs can help farmers. Stacie Dina, a staff member with Congresswoman Elise Stefanik’s office, joined us one morning to learn about Armed to Farm. Other guests during the week included staff from Cornell Cooperative Extension, NY Department of Agriculture and Markets, Farmer Veteran Coalition, and a local Assemblyman. Three participants from last year’s New York Armed to Farm joined us for a farm tour and meal. It was great to see them again and catch up.
Bangor, Maine, August 21-25
This Armed to Farm was open to veterans in the Northeast, with priority given to those from Maine. Twenty-six veterans and spouses attended the event, which we planned with the help of our project partner United Farmer Veterans of Maine (UFVME). We really appreciated the dedicated volunteers from UFVME who helped host, provided meeting space, and even prepared meals for the group during the week. Sustainable Agriculture Specialist Thea Rittenhouse came all the way from NCAT’s Western Regional office in California to help out, and Lee joined us again as well.
Our week included classroom sessions and farm tours. Andy gave a talk about vegetable production and led a group exercise on whole-farm planning. I presented on farm recordkeeping. Lee and I led a great group discussion on sustainable livestock production.
Our farm tours covered a wide variety of enterprises. We visited a large orchard and nursery operation. We also traveled to a diversified operation offering vegetables, pastured lamb and poultry, and value-added products. Richard Brzozowski, University of Maine Cooperative Extension Administrator, coordinated a tour of the University of Maine farm and brought in several Extension agents to provide presentations.
Our final tour took us to a highly diversified farm that raises goats, alpacas, and rabbits for fiber, pastured pigs and chickens, and vegetables. They also produce maple syrup and goat milk soap.
Congresswoman Chellie Pingree joined the group for the tour of Chase Stream Farm. A local TV news station aired a story about her visit, which is viewable online here. Congressman Bruce Poliquin also spoke to the group. We appreciated having them spend time with us. It was a great week.
Looking Ahead to Future Armed to Farm Events
We’ll spend the next several months planning and preparing for next year’s Armed to Farm trainings. Subscribe to our Weekly Harvest newsletter here to receive notifications when the application periods open for the 2018 events. Click here for more information about Armed to Farm.