Finger Lakes CRAFT
The Finger Lakes Collaborative Regional Alliance for Farmer Training, or CRAFT, is a community of established and aspiring farmers and homesteaders. Members meet monthly throughout the growing season at the CRAFT mentor farms to share knowledge and build their futures as young farmers. The Finger Lakes CRAFT is organized by the Groundswell Center for Local Food and Farming.
We photographed the farm tour at Plowbreak Farm and talked with Joanna Green, Director of the Groundswell Center.
What is CRAFT?
CRAFT is a community experience for beginning farmers in the Finger Lakes region. Its purpose is to provide a support network for beginning farmers and to help pass on the knowledge of experienced farmers to them.
Who is it good for?
Most of the participants are beginners… people who may be interested in farming commercially. CRAFT is intended to support people who want to go into the business of farming, but it’s also of benefit to farmers who have been in business.
What change are you trying to make?
We’re trying to, basically, improve the success rate of new farmers by providing them with mentors and peer to peer network knowledge about farming and different models of how a farm business can be put together.
What brought CRAFT here?
Groundswell started the Finger Lakes CRAFT. There were already several farms in the area that had interns and were very interested in educating new farmers, but they didn’t really have the time or energy to make these things happen so we started working with them to organize this program.
How does it impact our community?
I think it has strengthened the bonds among farmers in general. Specifically though, it’s given beginning farmers easy access to this network of mentors. So, before CRAFT, if you were interested in farming, you kind of had to make your own way and figure out who to talk to and make it happen by yourself. Now, if you’re interested in farming you have this whole network ready to tap in to.
What struggles have you encountered?
Well, farmers are super super busy. The mentor farmers are really committed to doing their monthly workshops and tours, but it’s really hard for them to carve out other time. One of the other things that we’d like to do is have regular potlucks or social gatherings so these networks can deepen, but it’s really hard to get the farms that are already in business to be able to carve out time for some of these extra activities for the CRAFT program.
What should we be celebrating?
We should be celebrating this incredibly special and vibrant community of farmers that we have. Our region has probably one of the highest per capita rates of good organic farmers who are interested in teaching. There’s just a really great spirit among farmers here. A real strong sense of collaboration, a real commitment to encouraging the next generation of farmers and collaborating amongst themselves. We just have a really awesome farming community.
If any place can really manifest the vision of a vibrant, sustainable, and equitable food system, we can do it.
How can we take part?
If you’re one of the few people who is considering or planning on getting into the commercial farm business, you should join the Finger Lakes CRAFT. And if you’re one of the many many others, like myself, who are interested in farming and want to support farmers but don’t want to become a farmer, you can really help by supporting Groundswell with your financial contribution.
Any final thoughts?
This really is a groundswell. We’re part of a movement building a new food economy and I think everybody should get involved.
Or learn more about the Groundswell programs at groundswellcenter.org. If you’re interested in supporting the Groundswell projects including CRAFT, subscribe to the email list to learn more about this year’s capital campaign.5
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