Now, I will admit that I am a city boy, actually if I am really honest I have to admit I am even more of a creature of the suburbs. Bleah. So I have this romantic notion of what farming is like and occaisionally think, "I should chuck all this and move 'back' to the land." If you have ever thought that, here is a website and program for you.
UcanFarm.org is a very nice looking website here is their self description:
This Web site is a component of an “Agribusiness Incubator” project that engages local farmers and agribusiness people. The mission of the project is to provide opportunities, processes and resources that facilitate the entry of new farmers and farm businesses into the agricultural community of North Central Wisconsin.
Support for the site is provided by Central Wisconsin River Graziers, the UW Extension and the Wausau Regional Chamber of Commerce. It is chock full of advice for new farmers. It is mostly directed at dairy farmers and very gives a tremendous number of resources for grazing cattle rather than shutting cows in a barn and shoveling feed at them. This strikes me as a great step in the right direction.
It would be very nice to see the sponsors add another component to the website, to expand it to organic and sustainable agricultural production methods for crops and animals other than dairy.
Family famers have been driven out of business by huge agribusinesses monopolizing the food market and dropping prices so low, and profit margins even lower, so that only the biggest farms can survive. Organic farming practices can break this cycle by giving consumers a value added product they are willing to pay more for, has higher margins and provides something agribusiness can't — a local connection.
As the price of all fossil fuels continue to rise, fertilizer and pesticide prices will skyrocket as well, making input intensive agriculture more and more expensive. Organic and sustainable methods will be needed to fill that gap. Farm organizations need to begin teaching (actually re-teaching, farmers of 75 years ago used mostly sustainable and organic methods) this kind of agriculture, not only if smaller local farms are to survive, but perhaps all of us.
UcanFarm.org is a great step in the right direction and I hope they will expand their scope. I hope you will take a look at what modern farming is doing and maybe revisit those romantic dreams.