Albuquerque, NM. Syracuse area resident Tricia Park, co-owner with her husband, Matt, of Creekside Meadows Farm in New Woodstock, has been invited to give an after-dinner talk and a break-out session 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.
Park, who raises grass-fed beef as well as pasture-raised chicken, turkey and pork on her 150-acre farm, will discuss how her participation in a Beginning Women Farmers Program, and learning Whole Farm Planning, has helped the couple’s agricultural business to thrive.
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 conference is designed for current and past HMI “Beginning Women Farmers in the Northeast” program participants, their farm partners, and anyone else interested in Whole Farm Planning. 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 95% change of knowledge about financial planning. Park and her husband are prime examples of how such knowledge can have an immediate and positive impact on an agricultural enterprise. While the couple began farming as a pastime, Park’s participation in the Beginning Women Farmers Program helped her understand “what an agricultural business is — it is not a hobby.”
She then utilized her newly-acquired fiscal knowledge when the couple wanted to sell their first 26-acre farm and purchase the 150-acre property. “Our finances were in order when we approached our local bank for a loan,” she notes. “I don’t think we would have moved to this farm if I didn’t have the confidence in the financing. I also learned how to price my products.”
“As we pursue the Whole Farm Planning process, by fall of 2012 we should have solid numbers for our finances, pasture production, and hay in the barn… and can plan better for expansion,” Park adds.
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 Tricia Park and Creekside Meadows Farm
- Creekside Meadows Farm started as a hobby, grazing two cattle. In 2003, Tricia and Matt purchased a small herd of 11 Scottish Highlander cows from a neighbor. They grazed the beef on grass, began selling the beef, noticed that the beef tasted “different,” and decided to “explore the reasons why.”
- They didn’t have enough land to graze their cows, so they leased fields from neighbors; however, their neighbors wouldn’t let them put the nutrients back into the soil (a step advocated by HMI through planned rotational grazing). These factors, combined with coping with flooding three times each year, led to the decision to look for a larger farm.
- The Farm’s niche is pasture-raised chicken, turkey and pork because these can not readily be found in their area; whereas, grass-fed beef is more widely available. However, the beef does attract customers: in 2011, the couple butchered six of their cattle and sold all the meat.
- Their beef and pork are slaughtered by a U.S.D.A.-certified butcher; they process the poultry themselves.
- In 2011, Tricia and her husband finished 18 pigs and 800 chickens (also for their meat). They also have 28 egg layers and have recently started selling the eggs – with their 15-year-old son in charge of the project.
- Her future plans include some expansion: increasing the number of pigs to 20, adding four steers to the cattle herd this year (“We know we can purchase 4-8 animals with no debt”), and participating regularly in both the local winter and summer Farmer’s Markets in nearby Cazenovia; planning: for the rotational grazing HMI recommends; and diversification: growing vegetables for the summer visitors. “We get lots of requests, and there are no vegetable stands on their route from the city,” she says. Tricia has been consulting with other vegetable growers from the Beginning Women Farmers group. “The best advice I got was, ‘start small and simple.’”
- Tricia doesn’t have to do much advertising because “customers are finding us”: on their website (CreeksideMeadowsFarm.com), along with localharvest.org and eatwild.com; through customer referrals; summer visitors drive by the farm on the way to nearby DeRuyter Lake; people pick up their cards at local businesses; and they can be found through a mobile app called “FarmshedCNY” (created by one of their neighbors).
Creekside Meadows Farm is in Madison County, whose government is pro-agriculture and supports small farmers marketing directly to consumers through its Agricultural Economic Development Program. Under the Program, the County publishes an annual Farm Guide, organizes a “Buy Local Week” and “Farm Visit Day,” and schedules an “Eat Local” dinner at a county-based farm. The local population strongly supports these activities