The Small Farms Program is excited to introduce Crop Talks 2019 – A farmer-led, farm tour for other farmers hosted during the growing season. Each tour will center on a topic or theme specific to the host farm and relevant to the phase of the growing season it is being held in. These discussion based farm tours are an opportunity for farmers to learn from one another, to get together to exchange ideas, opportunities, challenges, test assumptions, and to network. According to researchers, Borrelli, K, et al, “With regard to production management information, the first most trusted sources (that more than 80% of respondents found to be trustworthy) were other local farmers.” As such, Crop Talks are an opportunity intended to facilitate more instances of farmer-to-farmer sharing and learning. Extension staff will be on site to listen, support farmer to farmer exchanges, and to provide research-based resources related to the tour topic.
During the Crop Talk, the host farmer will share an overview of their farm operation and history, and then tour the farm while discussing the chosen topic or theme. The tours offer the chance to learn unique tricks of the trade and to access ‘hard won’ knowledge and local wisdom. When these tours happen in the midst of the season, the topics of conversation and the presentation are raw and in the moment. Mid-season tours highlight that farmers are not alone in the challenges they are facing and provide opportunity to creatively explore those challenges, problem solve together, and find moral and technical support.
Data suggest that when farmers convene, new opportunities arise for increased economic viability, improved quality of life, and greater community interaction (Matthewson et al (2013) 2). At the end of the tour there will be dedicated time for socializing and networking. Especially during the growing season, farming can be isolating and extremely stressful. We envision these tours offering a practical and fun way for farmers to find inspiration and encouragement from peers.
For the 2019 season, Crop Talks are planned for the Columbia River Gorge and the Willamette Valley. To help guide future tour topics we are asking farmers to fill out a quick online survey to identify areas of interest. Thank you for taking the time to fill it out the survey. To learn more about individual tours visit our Crop Talks 2019 webpage. Additional tours will be added as they are scheduled.
We want to thank our host farms for opening their farms and minds to other farmers and helping to build community. These are the meaningful exchanges that transfer knowledge from established farmers to the next generations of producers.