They clipped cattle, fed piglets, shoveled manure, weaned calves and hunted for eggs. They also figured out how to make a living wage doing what they love; farming. This Spring, I encouraged as well as tested and learned from four NH Technical Institute (Concord's Community College) students who met twice weekly for eight weeks at my farm as part NHTI’s newly-offered Sustainable Agriculture degree and certificate program.
The course I led (Spring2018 CRN: 26495 AGRI112C Section: 1) met at the farm on Wednesday and Friday mornings. After an hour or two of reading, testing and discussion in our farmhouse classroom we moved outside to wean calves, feed pigs, shovel manure and brush horses-regular farm chores. We visited the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), Merrimack County Farm Bureau, NH Dept of Agriculture, Grappone Center Kitchen, and UNH Merrimack County Extension Office to learn about the multitude of resources available to farmers. The students also wrote a grant and applied for scholarships.
Farming is so much more than feeding livestock; it also is about earning a living. For their final project, each student compiled and delivered a presentation on how they could make a profit raising goats, laying hens or dairy cows to a panel audience of educators and farmers. Often we farmers forget to pay ourselves. To make the point that farmers have mortgages and car payments, each student was required show how they could pay themselves $18/hour for work related to their projects. Fair wages are apparently a foreign concept to most farmers. Students who would not hesitate to scoop manure, wrangle a calf or castrate a pig, objected to setting money aside for their pay. To be fair, these four students did their research, and each of them showed how they could make a profit… even if they didn't pay themselves wages. The presentations were professional, thorough, and made me proud of these future farmers.
We are now in the middle of the next 8-week course; Summer Practicum (Summer2018 CRN: 33848 AGRI115C Section: FWF Prac Appl Sustain Agri II), which is more detailed than the first term. At the end of this section, on June 29, these students will present a full-blown business plan to a live audience. You are all invited to see how these student farmers will raise livestock, create products for sale, market those projects and find funding to help them reach their goals. It is terrific that NHTI recognized the need for a degree-granting Sustainable Agriculture program. These students are learning how to do what they love; farming….. and make a living doing it.
As I am the instructor of this class, you can call me “Professor.” Even though I'm the teacher, these students have taught me new skills as well. I guess that is what farming is all about; sharing and learning skills both old and new.