Nebraska Young Farmers Nights inspire producers, consumers
Wednesday, June 25, 2014 7:39 AM
The Nebraska agriculture industry is coming together at the dinner table.
Various young and beginning farmers came together at Big Muddy Urban Farm in Omaha to discuss production practices during the second Nebraska Young Farmers Nights of the year. About 13 more Nebraska Young Farmers Nights are planned for this year.
For the second year, Nebraska Young Farmer Nights are bringing farmers, ranchers, consumers and other agricultural enthusiasts together for food, community and conversation.
This year though, the nights are bigger and the events are reaching a broader audience.
Nebraska Young Farmer Nights are social events that take place on different farms throughout the state where dinner is served and a farm-related activity is planned. Anyone young at mind, heart, body or soul and interested in Nebraska agriculture is invited to attend.
William Powers is executive director of the Nebraska Sustainable Agriculture Society which is responsible for the start of Nebraska Young Farmer Nights.
Powers is a young and beginning farmer who believes the agriculture industry needs to rely on sustainable farming principals that will allow farming to be around for generations to come.
His farm, Darby Spring Farm, is located in the Saline Wetlands of Saunders County. There he raises pastured poultry and grass-fed dairy cows using heritage breeds, including Guernsey cows.
"The future of agriculture needs to transition to a lot more young farmers and a lot more young farmers utilizing these local principals where there's a basis on community," Powers says.
At Nebraska Young Farmers Nights agricultural producers and enthusiasts can build community, which can lead to collaboration throughout the state, such as tool borrowing/trading, cooperative purchasing power, swapping of mutual resources, brainstorming on pest management and more.
Advancements in the agriculture industry need inspiration, and according to Powers inspiration is what farmers, ranchers and consumers receive at the Nebraska Young Farmer Nights.
Farmers can learn about practices they can tweak to fit their farm and the environment they are in, such as no till or cover crop usage. Consumers can learn more about what they are eating and how they are supporting their local community.
"The emphasis is on sustainable and organic agriculture, but it's not exclusive to that," Powers said. "It's very inclusive of all different types of backgrounds and farming enterprises, or maybe people don't even have the farming background but they're interested in knowing where their food comes from."
From row crops to livestock and every combination in between, production agriculture is full of opportunities for young and beginning farmers. With extreme variations in the environment across the state, Powers says he hopes the Nebraska Young Farmers Nights give people the inspiration that agricultural production can be done, on any scale and in many different environments
The events are casual and allow everyone who attends to ask the host and others in attendance numerous questions. Producers can utilize the Nebraska Young Farmer Nights as a sounding board for their ideas.
Each night is hosted by a different farm and is free to anyone interested in learning how their food is produced, interested in being a part of the food production process, or interested in supporting young and beginning farmers.
On June 10, Prairie Pride Poultry in York held the first Nebraska Young Farmers Night of the year.
Everyone who attended visited the grocery store where Prairie Pride Poultry sells eggs before participating in a pasture walk and a potluck dinner.
Big Muddy Urban Farm in Omaha led the second Nebraska Young Farmers Night on June 13. Here, a group of urban growers raise and sell naturally-grown produce and herbs in Omaha. They also raise about 25 laying hens in the city and sell their eggs.
A third night was hosted by Common Good Farm in Raymond on June 17, and two more events will follow this month on June 27 at Benson Plant Rescue in Benson and on June 30 at Prairie Plate Restaurant in Waverly.
The Nebraska Young Farmers Nights started with the National Young Farmers coalition, but they may be morphing into their own entity. Powers has 14 or 15 nights in the works for this year alone.
Agricultural producers of all different types and sizes, including fruit and vegetable growers, cow/calf operations, pastured poultry farms and grass-fed dairies, from as far west as North Platte and as far north as Albion, are participating.
The first two nights this year brought about 50 different people out for each evening.
"There are a lot of new faces," Powers says.
With these new faces, Powers is trying to build the agricultural industry's voice in Nebraska. The National Young Farmers Coalition is a voice for all young and beginning farmers across the nation. The Nebraska chapter, will insure the voices of Nebraska's producers are heard.
The National Young Farmers Coalition focuses on policy issues in the agriculture industry. It takes the messages of agricultural producers across the nation to the USDA, the Secretary of Agriculture and other influential voices in the industry.