I attended Nevada County’s Sustainable Food & Farm Conference this past weekend in Grass Valley, CA and enjoyed an all-star line-up of keynote speakers…Temra Costa – author of Farmer Jane, Will Allen of Growing Power in Milwaukee, topped of with a little Joel Salatin of Polyface Farms, a.k.a. poster boy for sustainable farming practices…otherwise known as the farmer made famous in Michael Pollan’s book, Omnivore’s Dilemma and the Oscar nominated film, Food, Inc.Getting to see Joel was just a warm-up for his upcoming lecture at Olympic Valley Lodge in Squaw Valley on Wednesday, February 13th; hosted by Squaw Valley Institute and in support of the Tahoe Food Hub and Slow Food Lake Tahoe. If you live nearby, reserve your tickets today at squawvalleyinstitute.org. Knowing he was speaking to a choir of sustainable farmers and foodies, Joel handcrafted a new lecture on the fly for his audience of 300. I thought that was pretty thoughtful and it brought everyone to an even more alerted attention when he announced he had new material. He wanted to speak about people’s “Fear of Success” and that people are actually less fearful of failure because so many people fail and “what’s the harm in trying?” His request was for radical thinkers to take a chance on a passionate idea. As his Dad use to say, “We’ll know more in 30-minutes that we do right now.” In other words, you won’t know if you’ll succeed unless you try and trying is the fountain of youth.
Joel outlined the FIVE R’s of being an entrepreneur: 1. Risk…gotta be willing to take a chance 2. Renegade…be an original thinker 3. Reliant…reliant on oneself and not dependent
4. Ruckus…get rowdy and stir things up 5. Rigorous…its going to be hard work but stay focused and unwavering.
Putting the “FIVE R’s” in the context of agriculture, Joel made it seem pretty cut and dry, “If you want to become a farmer…be a farmer.” And proceeded to discuss the 5 WAYS TO SCALE-UP TO SUCCESS and “be a farmer.”
1. How do I get land?…Joel expressed there is a lot of land out there and you don’t need to necessarily own it encouraging aspiring farmers to approach landowners with farmable land which can be leased. And with 50% of the farmers about to retire, the market is about to become flooded with food producing acres so we need to connect young farmers with aging farmers.
2. Be a people person!…Being a farmer is a pastoral life but it doesn’t mean necessarily an introverted, unsocial life. To be a successful farmer, you can’t be afraid of people because growing food is about growing community and you need to cultivate the relationships with your neighbors just as much as your crops because they are your market.
3. Management…Not everyone is the best manager but to be successful, you can’t be afraid to try. The only way to be successful is to become a manager so you can grow your business but also so you can have a “life” and do other things versus never leaving your farm because you have no one else to do it. Joel’s suggestion, “Hire your first person right after you go crazy!” I think we all know what he’s talking about there, haha!
4. Regulations!…With success comes regulations whether it be workmen’s comp or grower certifications. They can seem daunting but resources are available to make it easier. Don’t let regulations be an impediment to success because it’s just another hurdle like learning to farm.
5. Business…You’re in business to be successful so get set up for success. Have an action plan no matter how simple it is and strive for those goals.From the mouth of Joel!