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LFG intern/graduate student attends NOFA Summer Conference

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Where to begin? My name is Helena (that’s me in green) and over the course the summer I’ve been interning with Land For Good working on aspects of farmer education curriculum. The capstone of this summer’s work was attending the 2010 Northeast Organic Farming Association Massachusetts summer convention. The conference exhibited a sampling of the tools used by Land For Good. Bob Bernstein and Mike Ghia presented a two-part workshop on acquiring land for farming (the bulk of the summer’s work), we set up a “Jeopardy wheel” of farm topics, exhibited the working draft of an online tutorial, doled out local pottery and ran a free raffle for Land For Good services.

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The outdoor exhibitor’s tent, where I spent much of the time, was blessed by sunshine and high winds. In between holding things down, I had chance to talk with a few of the other exhibitors and conference attendees. My personal focus was on the effectiveness of workshops in educating farmers, but most people brought up questions of “where do I start,” or “how much money do I need?” By far, of course, the most common question was simply “what does Land For Good do?” For the questions on financing or where to begin, Bob {Bernstein, co-director} got to handle those. For the “what is Land For Good?” I got to develop an elevator-pitch-style explanation that shifted slightly with each use. It would basically go like this: “Hi, do you have any questions about Land For Good?”, “Well, what is Land For Good? Do you help farmers find land?”, “Well not necessarily, you’re thinking more about a land-linking organization, Land for Good works on a variety topics all aimed at keeping farmland as farmland and helping farmers plan and transition. Most often, Land For Good works with beginning farmers to help build a business plan, conduct land evaluations, and so on. Or LFG works with farmers looking to pass their land on to someone else, or with non-farming landowners. The goal is to keep farmland active and with that, various tools are used like: doing land evaluation, going over plans and budgets, discussing lease options and so forth. Sometimes, they will connect people who have land with people they know are looking, but land-linking isn’t the primary function.” From there, we might launch into a discussion about the Working Land, Land Here!, and Farm Transfer Planning programs available. Or people would simply go “oh neat,” take some pamphlets, give me a thumbs up and walk off. Such is the nature of an outdoor conference – chaos, lots of talking, and repeating and rephrasing words over and over again.

Picture of folks at Bob's workshop on acquiring land.

Picture of folks at Bob’s workshop on acquiring land.

My other task was to display a working draft of an online tutorial currently being developed. The tutorial will ultimately provide information for beginning farmers on topics ranging from financial needs, budgeting, communication with potential lenders and landlords, land evaluation and virtually every other consideration for finding and starting a farm business. It will also be interactive with content users can edit for personal use. People who did talk with me about the tutorial and the survey provided immensely detailed and valuable feedback. The positive reaction of the tutorial gives us a great deal of energy to keep moving forward and conquer all the ensured technical bugs that will crop up.

Bob presenting at his workshop.

Bob presenting at his workshop.

Overall, it was an invaluable experience. I got to meet people working on everything from website design for farmers to pesticide uses in New Zealand. The sheer range of areas of organic farming that one can become involved in is overwhelming. If anyone has had doubts about going to a conference, I suggest you put them aside. There was certainly enough going to keep a person entertained.

Another person tries his chance at winning a free consultation on our "farmwheel"!

Another person tries his chance at winning a free consultation on our “farmwheel”!

With the close of the summer, and this conference now behind me, I can only hope the fall is just as glorious as the summer has been. I’ll be staying around Land For Good through the fall semester working on the online tutorial and a Monadnock Region based project. Land For Good meanwhile, will be progressing with plans for more workshops, tabling at events, and continuing to help individual farmers. So, if you find yourself wondering about starting a farm in New England or wanting to make long-term plans, send an email to info@landforgood.org. If you find yourself taking the tutorial, feel free to let us know how it goes. Really, do, it goes into my grades!

– Helena

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