I love my job at the Center for Rural Affairs. I get to meet interesting, creative people, all working to make Rural America stronger. One of the highlights this past year was working with beginning women farmers and ranchers.
We’ve held workshops, fielded phone calls, and placed aspiring women farmers with established women farmers who serve as their mentors. The Women Food and Agriculture Network, an Iowa-based organization staffed by incredible women, made this work possible. They included the Center in their “Harvesting Our Potential Program” for aspiring women beginning farmers.
One of the most interesting women I’ve met this year is Samantha Christenson, a Navy veteran, mom, textile artist, and aspiring farmer (shown above). Sam contacted us about her small farm dream. We signed her up for an on-farm internship with Charuth Loth at Shadowbrook Farm. Shadowbrook is a 34-acre diversified family farm including a goat dairy, organic vegetables, and cut flowers.
Internships are an invaluable experience for beginners. They allow hands-on experience, hard to acquire if you were not raised on a farm or ranch. At Shadowbrook, Sam learned to milk goats, tag their ears, de-worm, vaccinate, remove horns, and trim hooves. She learned about feed quality, parasite prevention, pasture rotation, and cheese making.
I could hear her enthusiasm when she talked about making bouquets, describing how she selected each flower to create full, unique arrangements. Sam rightfully picked up on the importance of efficiency. Time is a valuable commodity for small-scale farmers. She said “for two months, I saw and experienced firsthand the culmination of my four years of studies.”
Thanks for the inspiration, Sam. Women farmers and ranchers make our rural places so much stronger!
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