A Broken Hand, a Future Woman Farmer, and a Dream
By Ash Bruxvoort I’ve traveled across the country and attended farm workshops in five states, but I’ve never been able to sit with a group of women who shared my big, crazy dream of starting a farm. Luckily, within a week of moving back home to Iowa, WFAN held their Harvesting Our Potential Learning Circle in Story City [June 25, 2015]. I walked into the workshop full of mixed emotions. I’d just moved back to Iowa after several months traveling the country and working on organic farms. I had broken my hand and had to leave my apprenticeship in New York, which was a devastating blow to my farming career. I knew I wanted to start pursuing my own farm dream in Iowa while my hand healed, but I had no idea where to start.
Within the first 15 minutes of the learning circle, I was having conversations with women going through the same thing I am. Okay, maybe they didn’t have a broken hand, but they had their own obstacles on the road to becoming farm-hers. Before the agenda even began, I was already feeling excited and inspired about my future farming in Iowa.
The conversations continued in our larger group as we informally shared our goals, dreams, and fears. These conversations happened throughout the day as I heard like-minded women talk about how they tackled pest control using organic methods, how they dealt with landowners or disgruntled family members, or how they were creating a profitable business plan. As much as I love pursuing a career as a single woman farmer, it can be a lonely pursuit. The learning circle provided a welcoming community for each of us to dream big and say our scary goals out loud. I think we learned as much from each other as we did from the resource professionals in the circle.
To assist us in achieving our goals, WFAN brought in several resource providers to discuss business planning, farm education, conservation planning, legal considerations, farm succession planning, funding for beginning farmers, and cost-share opportunities. I left the workshop with several things to follow up on, such as:
- Start my own business plan with resources such Paul Dietmann’s Fearless Farm Finances book, which was recommended multiple times throughout the learning circle. I hope to create my own business plan this fall before enrolling a business planning course this winter.
- Start early with a separate bank account and record-keeping system for the business.
- Have the staff of the USDA's Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) come look at my property to advise me on conservation practices.
- Subscribe to the Acreage Living Newsletter through ISU Extension's Value Added Ag program, and check out their new podcast series, as well as upcoming e-courses and small farms conference.
- Research Practical Farmers of Iowa’s Savings Incentive Program and Labor for Learning Program.
- Research farm succession resources and workshops through Iowa State’s Beginning Farmer Center that might be useful for my family as my father and uncle retire from farming.
After our morning of learning about resources, we went out in the field to hear farmers Julia Slocum of Lacewing Acres and Alice McGary of Mustard Seed Community Farm talk about their respective operations. Both women are fairly young in their business, and after getting excited about all of the resources I heard about in the morning, it was inspiring to see two women actually running successful farming enterprises and taking advantage of many of the programs we had heard about. The bus ride back to the meeting site was full of excitement as women compared their goals to what we saw in action.
I went home that night with a humongous to-do list, a list of women and resources I could contact to help me build my dream, a community of like-minded women, and most importantly, a sense that I could really do this.
Ashley's website: http://thenomadicfarmer.com/ Twitter: @ashbrux_writer Instagram: @campcreekpunk