I went out of town last Saturday (Sept 26th) to backpack for 6 days with my dad. So, to catch up…
Last Friday I travelled up to the small town of Taylorsville, near Quincy. It’s up in the high country, where the predominant agriculture is timber harvesting and ranching, then, vegetable farming (it’s cold, so veggies aren’t the best bet for most people).
I participated in the workshop by being part of a panel for young farmers and ranchers. It was an informative and inspiring workshop that covered everything from young farmers and ranchers, to niche marketing to ag policy (most importantly, the Williamson Act). It was also a good chance to network. I met some truly impressive people there, and look forwarding those bonds.
The most memorable question that someone had for me concerned the age of our local farmers. A fellow asked me if there were many others in our area who are looking to agriculture for their livelihoods. I said, relatively, no. I can think of 3 -4 or so in my age range who are looking to do this full-time and make it their job for the next x-number of years.
It’s a tough job, but starting any business is tough (So I hear). You cannot expect to make a wage commensurate to your labor hours in the first 2 or 3 seasons, but the expectation and possibilies are there to make the wage you desire. Those farmers who want to make CEO-type salaries (those who have big corporations) choose to farm on many hundreds, and then, thousands of acres. Wage, it turns out, is (more or less) proportional to scale.
Of course, there are always outliers (Elliot Coleman is one example – 1.5 acres). Also, those who farm thousands of acres don’t necessarily (not by a long shot) make millions. It comes down to scale, but more importantly, it comes down to intelligence, marketing, perseverance and wits.
I feel that I will be happy with my salary in the 10-50 acre range. At this time in my life, care and mindfulness are more important to me than more money. No matter how I farm, I always want to leave the farm and surrounding environment better (ie better able to harbor and facilitate life).