Farmers go back to school

TERRE HAUTE, Ind. (WTHI) A fall 2013 report from the U.S.D.A said small farms account for close to $4.8 billion of the United States economy. Growing those dollars here in the Wabash Valley brought several farmers back to class Wednesday night.

Money doesn’t grow on trees, but it may grow in the soil. According to Vigo County’s Purdue Extension Office a large section of small farms make up the Wabash Valley agricultural community. Since 2007 that number of small farms in our backyard has grown; not co-incidentally with help from a growing trend.

“The interest in local foods and organizations like food hubs (drives it),” Jim Luzar from the Purdue Extension office said.  “There’s a lot more interest in local production of agriculture.”

It is an interest that turned farmers into students Wednesday night. At the Small Farm Clinic held by the Purdue Extension Office in classrooms on Ivy Tech’s campus.

“The break out sessions are going to provide more information and material on backyard poultry, pasture management, farm record keeping vegetable production starting a food business,” Luzar explained.

New farmers alongside older diligently taking notes like freshman in college. For folks like Elias Donker, this clinic is a kick off to a new career for him and his family.

“The business we are going to open is going to be our primary source of income,” Donker explained. “It’s always been our dream since we came home from the army to work a small farm.”

That’s why he and his family divided up the sessions to learn as much as they can about creating not only a small farm, but a living out of their slice of land.

“With a small acreage farm the biggest gamble you’re making is you don’t have a whole lot of room to make a mistake and especially in a commercial direct to a consumer business you’ve got to be able to bring a good product and it’s gotta be something that’s predictable,” Donker said.

“We’d like to get to the point where all of us are employed by (the farm.)”

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