How Do You Grow an Organic Farmer?

As part of our efforts to grow organic farming in our home region of New England, we’ve come across some truly inspiring new friends working toward the same goal. Here, guest author Josh Cline shares with us how Stonewall Farm in Keene is growing a new generation of farmers.

Before industrialization, children learned at their parents knee how to farm, and when grown, inherited the land and taught their own children. The success of farmers’ retirement plans was in many ways how many children they had. As cities and factories grew, many young adults left the farm for the city, or to farmland in the mid-west that was easier to till because there were no rocks or many trees in the prairies. In New Hampshire the exodus was so great that the state went from 85% open space (mostly farmland) in the 1800s to 15% open space today – the fields have become forest. The dairy industry saw the same decline – over 115,000 cows in state in 1900, 81,000 ten years later, and 18,000 today. The result for the Granite State and much of New England? The knowledge and the land that was handed down through generations are substantially gone.

Stonewall Farm School: A Year with Us and You’ll Be Outstanding in the Field

Stonewall Farm in Keene, NH is a non-profit educational farm. We manage a 30 head organic dairy, three acres of garden, operate three greenhouses, and put up 1200 taps for maple sugaring each year. We experiment with and use a range of appropriate scale technology, such as a micro-pasteurizer, hydroponics to grow feed, small scale grain production and low-cost low-energy refrigeration. We reach over 20,000 visitors a year through public events, school programs, a pre-school, camps, internships, and volunteers. Our barns, farm store and grounds are open to the public every day, year round.

Now we’re starting to grow farmers. How do you do that, short of planting someone in the ground, covering them with compost and watering? Our answer is to offer an intensive, yearlong school with our farmer/teachers. Their 70+ years of combined experience (some even learned at their parents’ knee) is reflected in the nationally ranked milk quality awards the farm receives every year. Students will live on the farm and can focus on dairy, garden, or farm education. There is a tuition for the school, but qualified students may be hired as summer farmhands and earn most of that tuition back.

Antioch University Farm Business School: The Business of Farming

Producing award winning organic milk or delicious vegetables is only one part of farming. It doesn’t matter how good it is if you can’t sell it. So we are partnering with Antioch University New England in Keene, NH. They offer transformative education through scholarship, innovation, and community action for a just and sustainable society. Antioch will offer workshops, classes and potentially an MBA in sustainable farm business management. While learning to farm at Stonewall, students will learn to operate the farm as a business at Antioch. Students will create a business plan that will be the framework for their own farm. In addition, Antioch will host informational meetings with banks, Federal and State agencies, insurance companies and accounting firms. There is tuition for the farm business school, but qualified students may be awarded scholarship funds or other financial aid.

Students will learn the full range of skills necessary to grow a farm, and Stonewall Farm will remain a mentor to this new generation as they move out on their own.

Interested in growing into a farmer? Here’s the link to our website, or e-mail, call or write Joshua Cline, Director at:
Stonewall Farm, 242 Chesterfield Rd., Keene, NH 03431