Farms with a Future
Creating and Growing a Sustainable Farm Business
Foreword by Richard Wiswall
"Beginning farmers face so many challenges accessing the capital they need to get started or to grow their operations. But those who heed the excellent advice in Farms with a Future will be much more successful in their interactions with banks and other lenders."
—Elizabeth Ü, executive director of Finance for Food and author of Raising Dough: A Complete Guide to Financing a Socially Responsible Food Business
As communities seek greater resiliency in the wake of economic upheaval, job loss, climate change and global food shortages, local farmers are seen as a key resource to help reinvigorate, or create, a diversified, regionalized, ecologically-based food system. Farms with a Future explores the passion, creativity, and entrepreneurship that’s needed to help family farms find their niche and remain sustainable and successful in an age of agribusiness and consolidation.
What is a farm with a future? What will make it sustainable and resilient? And what key qualities and skills does a farmer need in today’s climate to be successful?
Rebecca Thistlethwaite addresses these and other crucial questions in this must-read book for anyone aspiring to get into small to mid-scale market farming, or who wants to make their existing farm more dynamic, profitable, and, above all, sustainable.
A growing interest in locally-grown food is evident: In 2008, local food sales (direct to consumers or direct to restaurants/retailers) totaled $4.8 billion dollars, according to a U.S. Department of Agriculture report. Those sales were predicted to top $7 billion by the end of 2011.
An experienced farmer herself, Thistlethwaite does not idealize or romanticize her subject in Farms with a Future. “If you are not prepared for some serious hard work, inclement weather, dirt lodged in every crevice of your body, and being so dog-tired that you fall into your easy chair at night and don’t wake up until the next morning, then you might look into another vocation,” the author warns.
Thistlethwaite and her husband took a one-year sabbatical and traveled the length and breadth of the United States to live and work alongside some of the nation’s most innovative farmers to learn some of their best practices, and a whole lot about what doesn’t work too.
Farms with a Future introduces readers to some of the country’s most innovative farmers who are embracing their “inner entrepreneur”: unabashedly marketing and sharing the pride they have for what they produce; building systems and finding efficiencies and cost savings so they don’t have to keep raising prices every year; shying away from huge debt loads by developing ways to build their businesses patiently over time using earned income or creative arrangements with their community of customers; harnessing natural processes to ensure they are not degrading the natural resources the farms depend upon, and treating their employees and volunteers like family.
While many other books address agricultural production, very few talk about business management for long-term sustainability. Farms with a Future will help guide farmers to manage for long-term sustainability and build a triple-bottom-line farming business focused on economic viability, social justice, and ecological soundness.