Ryan Yoder of the Yoder Farm in Danby says there is a need for diversification in agriculture, to develop outside markets and improve infrastructure.
Yoder shared his thoughts with the Vermont Folklife Center in Middlebury as part of its series called "Growing Food, Growing Farmers" that is focused on the Rutland County agricultural community. As part of a collaboration, Vermont Edition is sharing stories from this series.
Yoder highlighted some of his experiences in farming, including how Yoder Farm got its start, and what he sees as needs going forward.
What the farm does:
"Yoder Farm is ... producing a bunch of different, diverse calories off of a little piece of land here in Danby. And we’re growing things like beans and popcorn and vegetables. Strawberries, raspberries, apples, chickens."
"A lot of the planning initially had to do with all this other stuff in my life where it's like, 'OK, we need a more sustainable way to live.' And so we started putting business plans together for a farm business with the idea that, 'OK, do as much locally – you know, how much Vermont money can we keep in Vermont?'
"It's that idea that ... you buy your produce from me, that money recirculates – and you buy it from Price Chopper, 90 percent of it leaves the state. It's like, 'Duh, why would we not want to keep our money in the state as much as possible?'
"And then the other one was to start trying to be a part of making more sustainable systems. So for example more perennial agriculture, sequestering carbon in biomass and in the soil. And we've now actually kind of met a lot of these goals, so it's like 'Wow. This can happen.'"
Running the business:
"I have zero business experience, so it was a very big learning curve with all the paperwork and the bookkeeping and all these things that are really pretty horrible and kind of a bummer that you even have to deal with all that stuff. But, I'm trying to do this as a business.
"Unfortunately, it's agriculture. It's like, about as marginal of a business as you can have, and then we're doing all this demonstration stuff as well – all this 'oovy, groovy – let's try some new things.'
"And that's great, but it costs money and it doesn't have an immediate return when you're planting trees. So in the mean time, we're continuing with all the annual production that we do."
What needs to happen:
"Given the current context of economics and agriculture, we need outside markets if we're going to thrive so that we can do these awesome other projects. To do that, you know, we need things like the [Vermont Farmers] Food Center where we can aggregate, where we can market and distribute, where we can have food processing facilities.
"And simultaneously, that creates infrastructure that hopefully down the road is going to be available so that people in Rutland have food to eat."
This recording is part of a project developed by the Vermont Folklife Center with support from the Archie Green Fellowship. As part of a collaboration with the Vermont Folklife Center, Vermont Edition will be airing conversations from this "Growing Food, Growing Farmers" series. Learn more about the Vermont Folklife Center project here.