Our farm is a 5 acre 4 season vegetable farm in Central Indiana. We are first generation farmers entering our 7th season. We are not certified organic but do follow organic practices and consider sustainability an important tenet of our farming philosophy. We have been using these farming methods since we got started. We have often felt isolated doing this work, however, and wanted to build our professional and social network of farmers by participating in the leadership team of the Hoosier Young Farmer Coalition.
Our project seeks to establish a local chapter in Indiana of the National Young Farmer’s Coalition. We have a burgeoning population of young and beginning farmers in our state who will benefit greatly from a more organized network of farming peers, called the Hoosier Young Farmer’s Coalition. By building connection and comradery among the state’s young and beginning farmers we hope to ensure as many farms as possible thrive in our state. In our first year we were able to organize almost 25 events and engage with over 800 Hoosier farmers. We think this demonstrates just how great the need is for such an organization in Indiana.
The project objectives are simply to build community and comradery among young and beginning farmers in Indiana. We have a growing population of such farmers, as well as a growing population of folks interested in farming, and we seek to connect and encourage these folks. Farming can be isolating and challenging, and we feel connection with other folks going through the same stages of start up can significantly improve a farmer’s chance of making it through the first few years into an established, thriving farm. We propose to address this issue by providing ample opportunities throughout the year, via social media and via old fashioned get togethers, for farmers to get together and socialize. We believe from these social networks a powerful professional network of farmers sharing ideas and strategies will be built.
We utilized a mix of social media outreach, tabling at conferences, word of mouth, and passing flyers to spread the word to as many young farmers in Indiana as possible about the formation of our group, the Hoosier Young Farmer Coalition. Additionally, our leadership team meets about 4 times a year to discuss scheduled events, go over the budget, and strategize for new and upcoming ways to engage with young and beginning farmers.
We measured results by the number of events we were able to hold and the number of people we were able to engage through those events. We are also measuring results by the amount of interaction we have with our social media presence. We were able to plan and execute almost 25 events in 2017, and had over 800 participants in all. This completely blew our original expectations out of the water and we believe this firmly points to the need for this and other farmer-centric organizations in Indiana.
Educational & Outreach Activities
The main goal of the Hoosier Young Farmer Coalition is outreach to young and beginning farmers in Indiana to foster community and collaboration among our farming peers and we are really proud of the success we’ve had in our first year reaching so many young farmers and their allies. We utilized a mix of social media (Facebook) and old fashioned get togethers to spread the word of our newly formed organization, beginning with a farmer mixer in partnership with Purdue at the Indiana Small Farms Conference in March, 2017. We were also sponsors of the conference, gaining a table in the trade show and our name and logo in the conference booklet. It was a great way to introduce ourselves to 500 ofour farming peers!
We followed up with a spring mixer in Indianapolis and a summer mixer in Bloomington, both well attended by a mix of people from around the state, the latter had over 50 participants that attended. Late in the summer we hosted a round table with Senator Joe Donnelly’s Agricultural Liason to share thoughts and ideas on how the 2018 Farm Bill can best serve young farmers in Indiana. Over 40 people attended and a radio reporter from the NPR station in Bloomington covered the event as well as a reporter from the Batesville Herald-Tribune. We were also featured in separate stories in Edible Indy and Agrinews.
Additionally we supported 11 different agricultural film screenings and young farmer meet ups around the state in 2017. Each event was organized by a sponsor from the community and attendance at these events ranged from 5 to 40, with a grand total of almost 200 people attending the 11 film screenings. Events, for HYFC and other organizations working in agriculture for young and beginning farmers, articles of interest, and other opportunities are mainly shared on our Facebook page, although we do have a basic website as well.
We are currently planning at least 3 farmer mixers and several tabling events for 2018 and our conference scholarship winners are gearing up to attend their conference of choice. We look forward to hearing their reports at our spring mixer and potluck. We will again play an integral part in the Indiana Small Farms Conference with planning currently being determined. We are looking forward to moving into the second year of our SARE grant with wonderful momentum behind us from year 1.
We have learned just how much need there is in our state for groups supporting the work of small scale sustainable farmers. Almost all of our events had attendance at levels higher than we anticipated. We have been contacted over and over again by news media interested in telling the story of our organization and the farmers we support. We have made wonderful connections with other people and groups doing food systems work in Indiana and have begun to build valuable partnerships with those allies. We knew starting this organization that it would meet some of our individual farms’ needs but we now know without a doubt that it is beginning to meet a much larger need in Indiana as a voice and a connecting place for small scale farmers across the state.
One of the biggest advantages to implementing a project like HYFC has been the connection and comradery among the group members. One small disadvantage has been adding a substantial pile of administrative tasks related to the group to the plates of young farmers on the leadership team, who are also neck deep in running our own farms, working off farm jobs, and raising families. It has taken a significant amount of effort and dedication to make sure the tasks associated with HYFC remain a priority and as with any group project there have been certain people on the team who have gone above and beyond and carried more than their fair share of the work to make sure HYFC is off to a strong start. Thank you Nate and Liz!!
We would like to sincerely thank SARE for funding this project and reiterate just how valuable it has been to the development of a young farmer network in Indiana. We have lots more work to do but have laid a very strong foundation on which to stand while we continue to find, connect, and support young and beginning farmers in our state.