When she talks about the prospects for young farmers, Marika Nagasaka gets teary.
“Even if you do (get land), you have to be really creative,” she said.
The 32-year-old co-owner of ALM Organic Farms doesn’t think a lot of people understand the value of farming and are willing to pay the price for the food that’s produced. The problem is people are so focused on buying things that are cheap, she said.
“It’s unfortunate that we’re doing such good work and it’s hard to make a living off of it.”
But she’s hopeful that The Land Conservancy’s recognition of ALM Farms through its Conservation Partner Program will be another tool to educate the community about the value of local farms.
ALM is being recognized for its commitment to not only growing food, but mentoring new farmers and supporting organic food initiatives in the region.
“The real strength is in how diverse it is,” Nagasaka said. “Every step makes us stronger.”
Co-owner Mary-Alice Johnson didn’t plan such a complex operation when she bought the property in 1986.
“I just wanted to play in the dirt, myself, and grow good food,” she said.
Now the farm runs a seed company as well as farming workshops.
It also operates a SOIL apprenticeship program, a national initiative which provides young peoplewith short-term farm experiences. Several of the apprentices have stayed on to work, and Johnson has asked a few, like Nagasaka, to become partners in the business.
”When someone finishes an apprenticeship at my farm, I want them to be able to run my farm,” she said.
Although it’s busy, ALM tries to tread carefully on the land. The Conservation Partner Program encourages farmland preservation, and Johnson said the farm hardly uses a third of the 15-acre property.
“Most of it is natural forest,” she said. “We live in harmony with (the habitat).”
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