Homesteading, Organic Gardening, How to Farm, Preparedness, Self-Reliance
The Aspiring Farmer Blog
When we first started down the road of small-scale farming I thought we would be alone in our battle. In many ways we are, but over the past few months we’ve found out that there’s some people on our side, and they all have practical experience. These wonderful people are Tennessee’s extension agents.
Extension agents are the folks that work for the state universities and are dedicated to helping out farmers in the state (or county). Each county in TN has their own agent and then there are specialists that cover multiple counties. When we first learned about this practice we just assumed they were part of “the man” and would only recommend chemicals, large equipment and bigger scale to solve the problems. This assumption turned out to only be partially true. One agent told us to glyphosphate all of our land, but the majority of the agents have been entirely on-board with our ethos, ethics and plan of action. Maybe it’s different in other states, but for us it’s been a pleasant surprise and we’ve been able to learn a lot in a short amount of time through them.
The reason I’m writing about this is because I think extension agents are an underutilized asset. We’ve had conversation after conversation with folks in our area that never even knew they existed. We also attended two small conferences recently that while relatively well attended could’ve been three or four times the size. In TN we have a brush and meat goat specialist that is world renowned and here she is getting paid to help us (and we don’t have to do the paying!). There is a forage expert with hands-on knowledge of raising pasture-based meats. He co-grazes cattle, sheep and goats and has his own set of LGDs. Speaking of LGD’s, there’s an agent with over 30 yrs of experience with LGDs. Huge help!
Part of the reason why I think the agents are not better accessed is because they’ve got nothing to sell. Most of the time you’re getting advice from someone that’s selling you the answer to whatever problem you’re trying to solve. With extension agents they have nothing to sell. Therefore, you have to seek them out. You have to extend the olive branch, explain your situation, and see if they can help. They're not going to find you. Now, not every piece of advice will fit with what you envision for your farm, but at least you get an opinion from someone with practical experience. As a beginning farmer I can’t tell you how valuable that is. When you literally don’t have anyone to ask the thousands of dumb questions that you have everyday it’s priceless to have an outlet and get high quality feedback.
Thus far we’ve attended two conferences, met with a few of the extension agents on our farm and communicated with them via email for follow-up questions. Having that type of support system is fantastic and maybe we’re just lucky in Tennessee, but I bet many other states have their own extension agent gems waiting to be found.
So reach out to your extension agent and let us know if you agree.
Make a comment!