by Rick White
A "Thank You" to the Wiedigers
Paul and Alison,
I want to thank you sincerely for the support you extended me via the SSAWG Fee Waiver Scholarship to attend this year's conference in Lexington.
Almost two years ago, I relocated from Colorado to Northwest Arkansas in search of affordable farmland in closer proximity to my family. I happened to intersect with you at Dripping Springs Gardens one beautiful summer Sunday afternoon in 2014. Who knew that so many months later I would be receiving direct support from you to attend my very first SSAWG conference! Being a young farmer on a very tight start-up budget, the fee waiver made the conference possible for me. And being new to the region, the climate, and the community of sustainable growers here in the South, the conference was simply invaluable to me.
I am in the early stages of transferring and translating cultural practices I learned in the arid West to my new home in the humid South. I am also extending beyond my training as a non-profit CSA grower into the world of for-profit organic agriculture for the first time. The resources and support gleaned at the SSAWG conference accelerated my progress ten-fold. Of particular relevance were sessions on Crop Rotation and Pest Management by Alex Hitt, as well as the sessions on Planning for Profit and Leguminous Cover Crop management. With the fee waiver, I was also able to afford the mini-course on Start-Up Vegetable Production and Marketing, which was perfectly thorough for my needs. I also attended the short course on Pastured Poultry Profits by Joel Salatin, which was both inspirational and illuminating in terms of practical applications. The Voices from the Field sessions and the Trade Show were also extremely interesting and valuable. I met and reconnected with so many young farmers and food system advocates, as well, who will be my community of practitioners and support network in the years to come. In short, the conference was everything I wanted it to be and then some.
I have been hard at work since returning from the conference, putting all I learned there into practice here on my land. On rainy days and evenings, I am building out my record-keeping and accounting spreadsheets to track my income, expenses, and farm activities. I have refined my field maps and crop rotation plans and am finishing up my estimated start-up and annual expense projections. I've ordered clover and buckwheat seed and have mapped out my irrigation and fencing. I will settle on a name for the farm in the next week (Why is it so hard to name a farm?!), open my farm bank account, and begin marketing to prospective CSA members and local restaurants in May, preparing for a small fall harvest this year.
Much remains to be done, but I have momentum on my side and resources at hand to guide me now. None of this would have been possible without your support. I thank you again for all that you do for this community of growers, myself now gratefully included. Cheers to you both, and may 2017 be your best season yet.