News / Science & Technology

Leaving Day Jobs, Novices Dig Into Farming

Leaving Day Jobs, Novices Dig into Farmingi
X
December 23, 2013 3:33 PM
The United States is one of the world’s leading agricultural powers, but few Americans are farmers - just two percent of the population. In recent years, however, it seems that small farms are popping up everywhere to serve the growing demand for locally produced food. The people running these ventures often have no experience in farming. VOA’s Steve Baragona meets one of them in Montgomery County, Maryland, about an hour from Washington.
Leaving Day Jobs, Novices Dig into Farming
Mark Mills quit his steady job as a pastry chef for the unsteady life of a farmer.

Making the decision took two things.

“Boundless enthusiasm, coupled with a little bit of ignorance,” Mills said.

Although the United States is one of the world’s leading agricultural powers, few Americans are farmers, just two percent of the population. In recent years, more small farms have popped up to serve the growing demand for locally produced food. Like Mills, the people running these ventures often have no experience in farming.

Mills majored in history in college and what he knows about producing food comes from gardening and 26 years working in restaurants.

So, why did he do it?

“Well, it’s beautiful. Why wouldn’t you want to come to work here?" he said. "I’m my own boss. But really, it’s my love of food.”

That love of food has become nearly a national obsession in recent years. Here’s one indicator: the number of farmers’ markets has more than doubled in the past decade.

Nuturing farmers

Federal, state and local governments see opportunities to create jobs and new businesses. Mills was one of four people in a new Montgomery County, Maryland, program helping novice farmers get started.

Sarah Miller with the Department of Economic Development says it worked better than they expected.

“Boy, we didn’t even know how many we would get," Mills said. "We thought maybe one or two would be great, but I don’t think that we expected four.”

The program provided a few essential things.

“They provided the connection with the landowner, so I could actually have the land to farm on, which is key," Mills said. "Then, certainly, they provided the financing for the deer fence and the irrigation, some basic things to get going.”

They connected him with a mentor: farming veteran Woody Woodroof.

“The big thing to work with him on now is season extension," Woodroof said, "helping him to do the things that will allow him to harvest crops deeper into the fall and early winter.”

Woodroof showed Mills how white netting keeps the frost off. Mills' first season has gone pretty well. He's harvested roughly 450 kilos of turnips, 90 kilos of carrots, 130 kilos of greens and more.

Financial challenges

The hardest part has not been growing the crops, he says. It’s been selling them.

“I won’t say that I broke even. It would be nice," Mills said. "I probably put five grand [thousand dollars] of my own money in. I’m probably going to walk away with four, four-and-a-half.”

Luckily, his wife’s non-farm job will keep them afloat financially for now. Experts say many new farmers need to support themselves with another source of income.

Despite the challenges, Mills has no regrets.

“If it’s really something you want to do, if the opportunity comes along you’ve got to take it,” he said.

Data on just how many other novice farmers are taking that opportunity will be detailed in a U.S. Department of Agriculture report early in 2014.

You May Like

Video Miami Cubans Divided on New US Policy

While older, more conservative Cuban Americans have promoted anti-Castro political movement for years, younger generations say economically, it is time for change More

2014 Sees Dramatic Uptick in Boko Haram Abductions

Militants suspected in latest mass kidnapping of over 100 people in Gumsuri, Nigeria on Sunday More

Video Cuba Deal Is Major Victory for Pope

Role of Francis hailed throughout US, Latin America - though some Cuban-American Catholics have mixed feelings More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Sudan School Becomes Target of Aerial Attacksi
X
December 19, 2014 12:45 AM
The school dropout rate is at an all-time high in Sudan's South Kordofan state because many schools have been destroyed during the three-year civil war between the government and SPLA-N rebel forces. Adam Bailes visited Sudan's Nuba Mountains' region and reports many children are simply too scared to go to school
Video

Video Sudan School Becomes Target of Aerial Attacks

The school dropout rate is at an all-time high in Sudan's South Kordofan state because many schools have been destroyed during the three-year civil war between the government and SPLA-N rebel forces. Adam Bailes visited Sudan's Nuba Mountains' region and reports many children are simply too scared to go to school
Video

Video VOA Reporter Tours Devastated Peshawar School

Islamist militants wearing military uniforms and strapped with explosives attacked a military run school Tuesday in the northwestern Pakistani city of Peshawar. At least 141 people were killed in the horrific attack, most of them young students. VOA reporter Ayaz Gul visited the devastated school and attended the funeral of the principal who courageously tried to save her students from the deadly attack.
Video

Video Nigerians Fleeing Boko Haram Languish in Camp Near Capital

In its five-year effort to impose Islamic law in northeastern Nigeria, the Boko Haram extremist group has killed thousands of people and forced hundreds of thousands to flee. Some of those who ran for their lives now live in squalor on the edges of the capital, Abuja. Chris Stein reports for VOA.
Video

Video Putin Says Russian Economy Will Emerge Stronger

Russian President Vladimir Putin has said his country's sinking economy will not only recover but also become stronger, despite falling oil prices and Western sanctions over Ukraine. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports.
Video

Video Detained Turkish Journalists Follow Teachings of US-Based Preacher

The Turkish government’s jailing of critical journalists has sparked international condemnation and is being seen as an effort to undermine the followers of an ailing Turkish preacher based in the United States. VOA religion reporter Jerome Socolovsky has more.
Video

Video ‘Anti-Islamization’ Marches Increase Tensions In Germany

Anti-immigrant rallies in Germany have been building in recent weeks, peaking Monday night in the city of Dresden where tens of thousands of people turned out to demonstrate against what they call the ‘Islamization’ of the West. Germany has offered asylum to more Syrian refugees than any other country, and this appears to have set off the protests. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Aceh Rebuilt Decade After Tsunami, But Scars Remain

On December 26, 2004 there was an earthquake in the Indian Ocean so powerful it caused the Earth’s axis to wobble a few centimeters. Onshore on the island of Sumatra, the resulting tsunami was devastating. A decade later, VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from Banda Aceh, Indonesia, where although there is little remaining evidence of the physical devastation, the psychological scars among survivors remain.
Video

Video Refugees Living in Kenya Long for Peace in the Home Countries

Kenya is host to numerous refugees seeking safe haven from conflict. Immigrants from Somalia face challenges in their new lives in Kenya. Ahead of International Migrants Day (December 18) Lenny Ruvaga has more for VOA News from the Kenyan capital.

All About America

AppleAndroid