– Sam Marwood
Farming is romantic. Everyone gets it. Rugged, hard working humans toil away all day and all night to make dirt grow the things you need to eat.
This romantic notion is formed from second- and third-hand stories or from shows on TV or Facebook. Nowadays many in the West rarely step foot on a farm. Twenty years ago everyone had ties to a farm, whether it was a cousin, grandparents or a family friend.
We enjoyed a connection and with that came an understanding and appreciation for the life our farmers lead. A knowledge that because these amazing people grow food that we consume, we can get on with living non-food focused lives; the accountant doesnt have to tend the veggie patch for 3 hours a day, the nurse can save lives without having to make chutney in order to save the crop of tomatoes and the fireman can be on call 24/7.
As a society we have lost that connection because farmers have had to get bigger or get out. Many have have sold and moved into town. Farm kids have moved off to uni to get a better life. Over time we just have less people on the farms which means less connections to the cities.
But who cares anyway?
We think that everyone does. They might not realise it and may have never thought about it. But it is a basic yearning in everyone; we want good food and intuitively want to understands how this food is grown and by who.
We dont need to know who made our pens, favourite app or kitchen tap. But for some reason there is this primal need to know our food and its source.
So if you have this primal need alive in you the only thing needed is to create the connection back to the land and hopefully to a real farmer.
Here are 5 ways to become a friend of a farmer:
- Social media
Amy Gunn is one step ahead of you. She has developed a social movement called Friend a Farmer. Click here for the website (http://www.friendafarmer.com.au) and here for Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/friendafarmerinitiative)
The whole point is to encouraging people from non-farming backgrounds to friend farming families and become more familiar with the facts surrounding Australian agriculture.
Guy Coleman also wants to help you connect. He started AgriEducate. (https://agrieducate.com.au/ and https://twitter.com/AgriEducate). The reason is similar to Friend a Farmer; to re-engage urban and rural Australia by providing a platform for urban-rural connection, developing accessible agri-education and further encouraging involvement with agriculture.
These platforms will help you find out more about farmers and its then a simple step from there for you to connect with those that excite you.
2. Buy local food
I cant think of many better feelings than the one you get from handing over cash to a smiling farmer who has just allowed you to purchase 1kg of their finest produce. Then going home, chopping it up and bragging to your dinner guests that you know the farmer and now understand how they made it taste so good.
Buying produce direct from farmers is a really tangible way of connecting with farmers. They come to you. They do this every week and sometimes every day. So get up one hour earlier every Saturday, pack your own bags and go make some real connections with real people.
3. Buy a farm
This might seem ridiculous. Only millionaires can buy a farm. Well things are changing. There are rumblings around the country side that mums and dads will be the next big investors in agriculture.
Equity crowdfunding is on the rise across the world. Where for a few hundred or thousand dollars you can own property; even a farm. The ability for the everyday farm-lover to own a piece of their own farm is going to become commonplace.
Soon youll be able to own $2,000 worth of a 50,000 acre cattle station in America, or a 3 acre market garden in southern Australia.
When you own the dirt, you will feel a real connection with the land. You will have a destination to visit. You will have your very own farmers to touch and feel and laugh and cry with. Now that is romantic and just around the corner.
4. Become a farmer
Become your own friend! Why dont you just become a farmer? Ridiculous you say? Well again things are changing.
The farming dream is lying dormant in thousands of Australians hearts. Youre probably one of them. Sitting at your computer looking out onto concrete; daydreaming of open spaces, dirt and grass. But your beautiful dream is squashed into the lonely corner of your mind by the harsh realities of capital, skills and other peoples perceptions.
You no longer need to be a millionaire to own a farm – see crowdfunding above and other businesses who are matching farmers onto farms with investors, such as Cultivate Farms (www.cultivatefarms.com).
Cultivate Farms makes it possible for anyone to be a farmer. They connect an aspiring farmer witha retiring farmer and investor to own and operate a farm together. If you have the skill and passion you can now be a farmer. They have elimiated the biggest barrier to farming for most people – access to capital.
You can get the skills through online courses and working as a farm hand and there are regional communities who would welcome you with open arms if they knew your plans. So keep dreaming and then start taking practical steps to turn the dream into reality.
5. Camp on a farm
Through the AirBnB of camping – such as YouCamp (www.youcamp.com) – you can go stay on a farm, feel the soil in your toes and get to know the farmer.
YouCamp (in Australia only) connects campers to farmers and other private land holders. They are committed to opening up unique frontiers of the outdoors, providing people with access to the best and most exciting, interesting places to stay.
Once you have tasted and seen that it is good, you can just become friends with the farmer and over time you will be camp in their homes rather than their riverbank.
So now you know you want to love farmers and farming and you have easy steps to show that love, get out and get loving. Start by googling and getting on Facebook to find farm groups in your area or farmer markets and actually meet a farmer or two. From there, you never know where your farming dreams might take you!
Sam Marwood is co-founder of Cultivate Farms which is a social enterprise aiming to rejuvenate regional communities by bringing young families back to regional communities. They connect young families with retiring farmers and investors to own and operate a farm together. For further information go to www.cultivatefarms.com or email Sam at [email protected]