This month, FRESHFARM Markets celebrates an important milestone–our 15th Anniversary! Our continuing effort, dedication and passion has resulted in numerous achievements, one of the proudest being the creation of the Jean Wallace Douglas Farmer Fund scholarship program for young and beginning farmers.
Over the past four years, FRESHFARM Markets has awarded more than 20 scholarships (valued at over $10,000) to local farmers through the fund. Presented each year to new and pioneering farmers in the Chesapeake Bay region, the scholarships provide farmers the opportunity to gain important technical training, invaluable professional networking opportunities and facilitate access to fellow farmers and artisans. In the world of sustainable agriculture this educational forum and peer-to-peer learning is a key to success.
The scholarship program honors Jean Wallace Douglas for her lifelong commitment to the welfare of American farmers. The fund has been generously supported by the BAND Foundation, the Twinkling Eyes Foundation and the FRESHFARM Markets annual Farmland Feast.
This year’s scholarship winners attended conferences including the Pennsylvania Association of Sustainable Agriculture’s Farming for the Future Conference, the mid-Atlantic Fruit and Vegetable Convention, and the Chesapeake Alliance for Sustainable Agriculture’s Future Harvest Conference.
Workshops on managing holistic home orchards, maintaining fertile soil, cultivating vegetable gardens, and managing a CSA and crop planning schedule are just a few examples of the educational spectrum available to the scholarship winners. In fact, it is likely that some of your favorite farmers applied knowledge gained in the conference sessions to get this week’s product to market!
One of this year’s winners is Steve Blades, from Blades Orchard in Preston, Maryland. His personal experience is insightful and illuminating: “I attended the mid-Atlantic Fruit and Vegetable Convention in Hershey Pennsylvania…The first part of the lecture series I geared my sessions toward vegetable and vine fruit seminars…I also sat in on a wonderful talk about Cole crops. Insect ID, Brussels sprouts, collards, kale and cauliflower, production and how it may fit into my growing plan…After that it was back to learn a little about cherry trees that we will begin putting in this spring in our first planting of them as well as apricots. As you can see my experience in Hershey was fast and furious but I would not be able to do what I do without these intensive conferences.”
Julie Stinar of Evensong Farm wrote that attending one of the conferences precipitated important changes on her farm: “Things started to get a bit out of hand…so that winter, thanks to a scholarship from the FRESHFARM Markets’ Farmer Fund, I went to the biggest farmer conference on the East coast called the Farming for the Future Conference…Here I learned the essentials about keeping hogs and started learning how to make great sausage and charcuterie.”
The fund allows farmers the opportunity for critical hands-on learning in the company of experts and peers–the ideal forum. The attendees agree that being welcomed into the community of shared interests and objectives is most inspiring and rewarding. Another 2012 winner, Attila Agoston, owner of Mountain View Farm in Purcellville, Virginia, expressed this widely held sentiment: “One of the things I enjoyed the most about the conference was the chance to make connections and have conversations with other farmers.”
The Jean Wallace Douglas Farmer Fund has been a resounding success, educating, connecting and inspiring young and beginning farmers and furthering all of the best and highest objectives subscribed to by FRESHFARM Markets.