growth opportunities in farming?
Limited Growth Opportunities in Farming
By Sarah Shemkus
November 29, 2009
BREWSTER — In April, Eldredge Farm consisted of two greenhouses, a dozen chickens and one very ambitious plan.
"I have to screen out the loam, prepare the beds, install the posts and chicken wire, and install the irrigation," farmer Jeff Eldredge said at the time, making just a partial list of the tasks ahead of him.
Eldredge was gearing up for his first season running a community supported agriculture — or CSA — farm, a model in which members buy shares in the year's crops and receive a portion of each week's harvest. Neon orange ribbons fluttered on wooden stakes, defining the dimensions of the vegetable garden he was planning for one corner of the tree-ringed lot. In the greenhouses, tiny green slivers of garlic and onion plants emerged from the soil in small, black starter pots.
To get to this point, he had prepared for months. He attended classes in beekeeping and compost and other agricultural seminars. He made a farm plan with U.S. Department of Agriculture staff and got livestock permits from the town.
"It's not just about farming anymore — it's about all the process and procedures," he said. "It's been a lot of work to get where I am."
The plan for the season was to get the vegetable garden up and running and sell 50 shares in his CSA program. He talked about his goals idealistically, but with full awareness of the practical challenges.
"I think (the CSA) is a great thing, so we're not trucking stuff across the country. We should be able to provide for our people right here," he said. But later he added, "It's hard, because you're doing all this work for not really a lot of money. I'm just trying to make this viable."
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