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severine talks with rodale institute

Posted: October 21 2010

From the Rodale Institute: The Greenhorns: Next generation agriculturalists

Severine von Tscharner Fleming and The Greenhorns are promoting, recruiting and supporting young farmers--and having a whole lot of fun along the way.
By Amanda Kimble-Evans
Severine von Tscharner Fleming is a Pied Piper of sorts--joyfully leading young people into farming--and her goals are lofty. She wants to throw the doors of the aging agricultural community open and reintegrate the next generation into the conversation. Although none of this sounds revolutionary, the survival and success of farming as a viable and attractive career path has been in doubt for decades. The recent rise in number of young farmers across the country is a sign of hope for the community. A sign von Tscharner has made the focus of the non-profit Greenhorns (www.thegreenhorns.net)

How did you get involved in agriculture?

I grew up spending summers on my family farm. I loved animals and plants but it was all very abstract. In college, I was part of the founding of the organic farm at Pomona College. Pomona is the goddess of the orchard and apples, but down there it was citrus. We were growing citrus, guavas and a lot of things that just don’t grow elsewhere in the United States. It was like magic. You put something in the ground, water it, and grows, like, 10 feet.
I eventually dropped out of college to farm, focusing on dairy initially, interning and apprenticing on farms across the United States and Switzerland. Then started my own farm with three partners (including my brother), but we lost our land last season when the owner broke our lease.
There is a lot of land drama for farmers, but especially young farmers. When you’re working with a resource that is really expensive and you don’t own it, you have a high level of vulnerability and instability.

Tell me about the Greenhorns.

We are a small non-profit, powered mostly by volunteers, working nationally to promote, recruit and support young farmers. We convene parties, workshop and events that are educational and celebrational because we believe we’re here to nurture but also to be joyful with the next generation in ag. Good business skills are incredibly important, but we really feel strongly that the energy and the camaraderie and the farmer-to-farmer relationships are just as important as farmer-to-mentor relationships.
The Greenhorns actually started as a film project about young farmers. It has taken us three years and $140,000 dollars to get this far and we’d like to bring the film out to the world. We’re showing the final rough cut to farmer audiences on the West Coast to make sure the film reflects their values and that the tone resonates. Over the winter we’ll knit those comments in and starting in January we’re hitting the ag conferences, colleges and schools with young farmer mixers.
It is time to ramp up for the Farm Bill and we want to get people to think about joining the agricultural community. We need more businesses and caring hands on the land. The only way to do this is to reach out and to figure out how to make policy changes so it is easier to succeed. So we’re campaigning to raise money for outreach—our goal is $15,000 by October 22nd.
Read the rest of the interview here