Driven by economics, concerns about the environment or a yearning for a more satisfying lifestyle, the farmers and ranchers profiled in this collection have embraced new approaches to agriculture. Their stories vary but they share many goals -- these new American farmers strive to renew profits, enhance environmental stewardship and improve life for their families and communities.
The profilees in The New American Farmer, 2nd edition, hail from small vegetable farms and ranches and grain farms covering thousands of acres. They produce commodities like beef, corn and soybeans, or they raise more unusual crops like ginseng, 25 kinds of lettuce or Katahdin lamb. Others add value -- and profits -- by producing ice cream, goat cheese, cashmere wool and on-farm processed meat. Another set provides agriculture-oriented tourism through "guest" ranches, inns, on-farm zoos and education centers.
Many producers cut costs with new management strategies, such as replacing purchased fertilizers and pesticides with cover crops and crop rotations, or raise animals on pasture rather than in confinement. Some developed innovative marketing strategies to gain a better end price for their products. Others combine trimming production costs with alternative marketing, doubling their efforts to boost profits.
The paths to their successes come from every direction. Some NAF farmers and ranchers credit the Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education (SARE) program with providing a timely grant or research-tested information as they approached a fork in the road. Some turned to information centers such as the National Sustainable Agriculture Information Service run by ATTRA or the Alternative Farming Systems Information Center (AFSIC) at the National Agricultural Library. Others found help from their local Extension agent or educator, or an adviser from a government agency or nonprofit organization.
These farmers and ranchers were not only willing to share what they learned with us, but they also volunteered their contact information. To learn how to adapt what they've done to your farm or ranch, consider getting in touch.
This second edition updates many of the profiles from the first New American Farmer, published in 2001. Fourteen new profiles further probe the many options available to today's producer. (A tagline at the bottom informs of each updated profile or newly researched one.) We hope The New American Farmer, 2nd edition provides both inspiration and information as you explore your new approaches to farming.