So I work with a 20 year old kid in the constuction industry that wants to go back to farming. His dad has 150 acres of cattle feedlot, hog confinement, and crop ground(corn and soybeans). This situation cant support both him and his dad. It barely supports his dad. Im giving him Restoration Ag by Mark Shepard on Mon. and Im also looking for some Mark Shepard and Joel Salatin videos or essays to help get my point across that they can both make a living on this land. Farmers around these parts can be very stubborn to change!! Any suggestions?
Be sure to have them carefully read through the website of Gabe Brown, a fellow Dakota farmer who made serious changes to his practices. Gabe can talk his dad's language and can show them a more profitable way. It's not likely they will ever go all in for permaculture, but to transition to a more Gabe Brown approach would be a great step. Here's Gabe's website: http://brownsranch.us/ Here's a video of Gabe Brown talking at a conference about their operation: http://youtu.be/9yPjoh9YJMk I'd show him the Gabe Brown video before rolling him through the Joel Salatin stuff. I know many South Dakota farmers and they're not likely to respond as well to what Joel has to say as to what Gabe says. Just my opinion.
Instead of trying to get a conventional farmer to jump head first into the deep end of permaculture you may have better luck with baby steps. For example, going from a confinement hog operation to one that meets the Niman Ranch guidelines may be an easier first step.
FORT WORTH — Gabe Brown is in such demand as a speaker that for every invitation he accepts, he turns down 10 more. At conferences, like the one held here at a Best Western hotel recently, people line up to seek his advice.
“The greatest roadblock to solving a problem is the human mind,” he tells audiences.
Mr. Brown, a balding North Dakota farmer who favors baseball caps and red-striped polo shirts, is not talking about disruptive technology start-ups, political causes, or the latest self-help fad.
He is talking about farming, specifically soil-conservation farming, a movement that promotes leaving fields untilled, “green manures” and other soil-enhancing methods with an almost evangelistic fervor.
Such farming methods, which mimic the biology of virgin land, can revive degenerated earth, minimize erosion, encourage plant growth and increase farmers’ profits, their proponents say. And by using them, Mr. Brown told more than 250 farmers and ranchers who gathered at the hotel for the first Southern Soil Health Conference, he has produced crops that thrive on his 5,000-acre farm outside of Bismarck, N.D., even during droughts or flooding.
This article was on the "most emailed" list when I found it, which is cool.
Can definitely relate, nearly in the same boat. Currently sitting on 10,000 acres of prime South Dakota ranchland (under-grazed and under-stocked throughout its history, a very small portion of rowcrop farming, amazing rainfall and impeccable soils.) Unfortunately, its ownership situation is mostly traditional, elderly, and not exactly progressive-minded. So, pretty similar! By a very unlikely stroke of serendipity, however, the son of one of the owners is a permaculture enthusiast and hell-bent on turning the ranch into a space for creative, collective, re-wilding and self-sufficient activities (ideally to form a permanent or semi-permanent community of sorts.) He's currently working with local coop extension, and using some HMI (Holistic Management)/ranch legacy planning strategies to present the economic boon that a more ecologically sound model and/or grazing practices would most definitely yield. Ultimately he'll present these with a comprehensive business model to try and entice a gradual, healthy shift.
I would also agree with the above posters -- Salatin's message is aimed more directly at those with a more excitable back-to-the-lander, libertarian, or urban foodie/food justice activist attitude, rather than a seasoned ag guy.
The ideals around what other opportunities might be born out of this transition are posted on this website: http://www.foxmoonhaven.com.
If you're ever in the Black Hills region, you should stop by for a visit! He hosts WWOOF'ers and airbnb guests, haha, it's pretty cool.
I too have faced a similar problem.. so I bought all the stubborn conventional farmers in the family a deck of Paul's Permaculture playing cards (Thank you for making them!!).. then as we played gin, we could discuss some of the topics on the cards.. (if your smart.. memorize before playing.. so when he asks about Sepp.. you know he has a king up his sleeve.) It helped ease the conversation at the table of conventional farming vs. permaculture, without anyone having any fur up. It's not easy teaching old dogs new tricks.. some come with their paws firmly dug into the ground when you try and lead them a different way.
Books and videos help too.. but you can't force anyone to watch or read (even if you leave it on the top of the pile in the bathroom)... Before the cards: two rams in the same pasture, anything I, "a young city girl", suggested was like head butting a wall... After playing cards, my conventional farmer didn't mind watching some of the videos on the topics we discussed, reading the articles I left in the pile, or even implementing some of my crazy ideas around the farm... even if he felt they wouldn't work.
Baby Steps.. They had decades of conventional learning.. and it's worked for them.. changing their minds won't be easy.. especially if your in your 20s trying to convince a parent your way will work better.
Good Luck!! Don't give up.. It is possible.
This will take every ounce of my mental strength! All for a tiny ad:
WORK/TRADE OPPORTUNITY IN THE BEAUTIFUL SANTA CRUZ MOUNTAINS OF CALIFORNIA