There are so many challenges of being a new farmer, it’s hard to even list them all! As part of Sierra Harvest’s commitment to supporting new farmers, graduates of the Farm Institute’s Farm Biz Program are eligible to be selected for on farm advising by an experienced farmer to help ease some of these challenges. We can’t change the weather, or the pests, or make sure there’s enough water pressure to irrigate, but we can help farmers create realistic business plans and design for a viable future.
That’s where retired farmer Alan Haight, known for building Riverhill Farm comes in. A veteran local grower with nearly 20 years of veggie farming under his belt, Haight and his wife Jo McProud recently retired from farming and have successfully worked with FarmLink to help their farm continue to thrive with new farmers at the helm. That is all to say, Alan knows what he’s doing because he’s learned a lot of the lessons the hard way.
Haight said, “I started my farm without any sense of what it would cost to create or what I could make- that’s not a good basis to start a business but not unusual for farmers. It was five years before I really started focusing on viability and sustainability beyond my ability to farm. I wanted to build a farm for the generations with a solid economic footing.”
Through Farm Biz, Haight is providing support to six new farms in the form of two intensive meetings and ongoing monthly check ins. He works with them on the realities of scaling up, meeting increased demand and even step by step assessment of infrastructure projects to see if they make sense at the farm’s age and stage. Having been there himself, Haight is an invaluable voice of reason and experience.
“I’ve made every mistake that a farmer can make. And ended up with a fairly solid organizational structure with record keeping, budget, evaluation and planning. It’s this perspective that I want to provide beginning farmers to help move them along this continuum more quickly. Hopefully, they won’t make my same mistakes.”