“We can’t magically make farming easy, but we can help prepare our students for how hard it is and educate communities on how to best support them.”
Women’s Voice is an ardent supporter of independent health stores that support organic farms, so highlighting executive director Judy Feldman at the Organic Farm School (OFS) made complete sense. If you know anyone who wants to be a part of a hands-on learning experience that has successfully produced thriving small-scale organic farm operations, please contact Judy at OFS at organicfarmschool.org
You’re likely to hear Judy Feldman of OFS say a few things – should you ever speak with her about her role as Executive Director. The first, “The most important crop the Organic Farm School produces is farmers.” The second, accompanied by a humble and disbelieving laugh, “This work directs us; control on a farm is an illusion.” And the third, “Everyone eats.” Talking to Judy on a busy afternoon between grant writing sessions, meetings, and tours, she tells us she is no farmer herself; she builds community. She says farming is honourable and necessary work, and it has always been difficult – though arguably now more than ever – and the more resources, knowledge, and community we can equip our next generation of farmers with, the better for them and us all. We are a certified organic farm, incorporating regenerative methods with a focus on annual vegetable crops and small-scale seed production.
The school takes students through a complete farming cycle, teaching them soil development, crop science, seed production, processing, business planning, and marketing. OFS offers each student time with experienced farm managers, instructors, and researchers, ensuring they have opportunities to develop their skills, learn from mistakes, practise caring for their minds and bodies, and lean into dreams for their futures. It is intense, time-consuming, and emotional work.
Why do we do what we do at OFS? No one could answer this question with more consideration and awareness (two qualities that make her so superb at steering this ship) than Judy. She said, “The challenge farming has always presented is intensifying with each passing year. The physical requirements are never-ending.
And the mental gym- nastics needed to deal with increasingly erratic weather, pests, diseases, and the changeability of markets can lead to frustration, exhaustion, and a sense of isolation, all of which, for a new farmer, too often add up to burnout and even abandonment of the craft entirely.”
“When students finish their training and land in their fields, I am sure there are days when even our extensive support doesn’t seem like enough. Continuous environmental variables beyond a farmer’s control, and which no amount of training can truly prepare one to handle, have the power to turn thoughts of growth and income into dust. On those days, when OFS is no longer physically at their side, I hope they have built a strong community to lean on – and that their community rallies to support these individuals, who are working so hard to put food on their plates because, you guessed it, everyone eats.”
REGENERATIVE ORGANIC FARMING SUCCESS STORIES
On Whidbey Island, Washington, we have three thriving organic farms: Foxtail Farm, Deep Harvest Farm, and Sleepy Bee Farm, all established by OFS graduates – and many more OFS alums are running successful farming operations throughout the U.S.