Albuquerque, NM. Guilford resident Elysa Bryant, owner of a small farm, has been invited to present a break-out session on farm start-ups at a two-day regional conference, titled “Exploring Whole Farm Planning,” on Thursday and Friday, March 22nd and 23rd on the Amherst campus of the University of Massachusetts.
Bryant, who raises mixed livestock on her 2.25-acre farm, will discuss how her participation in a Beginning Women Farmers Program, and learning Whole Farm Planning, has helped her understand how to organize a successful agricultural business. “It’s oriented toward making the soil and the land a better place than when you started, while also helping you reach the goals you set for yourself and your business,” she says.
Co-sponsored by Holistic Management International (HMI), U.S.D.A.’s National Institute of Food & Agriculture and now in its third year, the Beginning Women Farmers program will have trained 270 farmers in New England and New York State (45 in each of the six states). Its demonstrable success inspired the co-sponsors to organize the March conference in cooperation with U Mass/Amherst’s College of Natural Science and The Center for Agriculture.
The “Exploring Whole Farm Planning” conference is designed for current and past HMI “Beginning Women Farmers in the Northeast” program participants, their farm partners, and anyone else interested in HMI’s Whole Farm Planning system. The overall goal is to educate participants about how Whole Farm Planning can help farmers achieve improved quality of life, profitability, and land health.
Attendees will hear specifically about the successes the Beginning Women Farmers Program has already achieved; learn from experts in the field about ways to farm successfully – no matter how long they’ve been farming; and network with other farmers in the Northeast to share tips and learn about farming resources.
At the end of the Program’s second year, particpants reported a 97% change of knowledge about whole farm goals and time management. Bryant is a prime example of how such knowledge can have a positive impact on an agricultural enterprise. After six months of managing a small goat herd, she came to the realization that “I was venturing into something I knew nothing about – dairy – and I was spending time and resources on it. Understanding Whole Farm Planning gave me a way to ask questions and make decisions, and the confidence to change direction.”
Bryant’s current goal is “to create a sustainable business that provides high-quality products, especially to those who may not typically have access.”
People interested attending in the conference may obtain more information and register in advance online at https://holisticmanagement.org/conferencebwfne/ Registration closes at 5 pm on Friday, March 16th. -30-
HMI is an Albuquerque-based international non-profit organization whose mission is to educate people to manage land for a sustainable future. They believe people count, healthy land is essential, and money matters. They accomplish their mission by delivering a variety of programs and services designed to educate and support farmers, ranchers and land stewards in their efforts to enhance the land through Holistic Management®, a whole ranch/farm planning system. Currently, there are 40 million acres of land on four continents under Holistic Management.
Beginning Women Farmers Program
The Beginning Women Farmers Program for the Northeast was started in 2009; the first class trained a total of 90 people in six states. 90 new participants enrolled in each of the second and third years. A number of program graduates have become mentors to new participants. At the end of the Program’s second year, participants reported a 100% change in their knowledge about soil fertility, leadership and communication; a 97% change in knowledge about whole farm goals and time management; and a 95% change of knowledge about financial planning.
According to HMI’s CEO, Peter Holter, the results indicate that a great need exists for a program that focuses on beginning women farmers (and ranchers). “Currently, there are a million women farmers throughout the country, and the number of young women getting into farming is growing,” he says.
“The Women and Food Agriculture Network has information indicating that – since 2002 – the agriculture industry has seen a 30 percent increase nationally in the number of women running farms and ranches. If you look at demographic, social, and economic factors, they indicate that the number will continue to rise in the coming years.”
More about Elysa Bryant
- Elysa has owned the farm since November of 2008, something she has always wanted to do. She has always been an avid organic gardener.
- Her products are bringing in some income. The Yale community provides a good customer base; her customers find her through localharvest.com and by word of mouth.
- Guilford has a long agricultural history, she says. Approximately 50 farms remain in the area – more than in most areas of Connecticut. The residents of this affluent community support local farmers and nurseries, and locally-owned businesses in general.
- Elysa learned about the Beginning Women Farmers program through Yale University’s Sustainable Food Project; Elysa is employed at the Law School as an HR administrator. “The Beginning Women Farmers Program turned out to be aligned with my professional training in organizational psychology, which is oriented towards making people more effective within an organization to help it reach its goals.”
- She has three children; her ex-husband also lives on the property and cares for the animals.
- She has retained the goats for diversified, complimentary, rotational grazing (with the chickens), a technique promoted by HMI that has been proven to improve land health.
- She has about 38 chickens who are egg layers; some are heritage breeds.
- She raises heritage and commercial turkeys on pasture, having sold 27 for Thanksgiving last year.
- Her initial goal for her homestead farm was to “provide good quality food for people who typically can’t afford to buy organic food.” However, she has discovered that “as a small farmer, it’s very hard to produce and affordable product. It’s more expensive to grow and produce better-quality food” – hence, now having a goal of selling premium products so that she can donate food to charity.
- In the fall of 2011 she donated 10 dozen eggs two weeks in a row to a charity – which was all of her production – and she is looking to donate food to other worthy causes.