AMY SOMMERS: It seemed like a perfect opportunity for me to try something new, to try out doing my own farm. This is the first year that I am doing a solo operation and renting land. It's two acres, growing vegetables, fruits, and herbs. I'm growing over 40 different types of vegetables and over 200 varieties, just shooting for a really high diversity in this first year to see what really grows well here, and also what people will be interested in eating or what new things they'll be interested in trying out.
MARK SCHINDLBECK: I've always wanted to have a farm, something with some land to run around on and do some growing. The farm has 42 acres, yet we only farm three acres of vegetables, and we have a small, one-acre orchard. There's three varieties of pears and eight varieties of apples, somewhere around 20 different types of vegetables, 70 varieties.
MEG SCHADER: I went to Cornell for agriculture, and got my bachelor's there. But I really felt like I didn't get a lot of hands-on experience. We always had this dream about having one cow. So we started in 2006 with the purchase of four cows. Well, we just added two little babies last week, so that brings our number up to 23 animals right now.
We have about 45 acres that we operate on. And then we process all of the milk right on the farm. Our main product is yogurt, and we also bottle some milk and make some cheese.
And we sell everything directly from the farm. We don't use a distributor. So everything goes right from our farm to the retail outlets where it's sold.
SHANNON NICHOLS: I grew up working on farms. Kind of fell into dairy farming. The main business is dairy fluid milk, and then it's certified organic. Then I do cheesemaking with a portion of our milk. We're slowly ramping up in production, so that it will eventually take up all of our milk. We just are easing into it because we didn't want to have to worry about balancing our milk production.
PIERRE DIONNE: I was trained as a family physician, so I did family practice for over 20 years. And I still practice medicine part-time. I bought the farm even before I was planning on going into farming. And then I needed to figure out what to do with it, basically.
I've been farming this operation since 2004. I started with about 100 broilers, just as a trial. So we're doing about anywhere from 700 to 1,000 boilers a year. The second thing we got into was turkeys for Thanksgiving.
Beef, I'm just building a small herd, and won't be selling any beef from that heard till a year and a half or two years from now. Last summer, I also got into feeder pigs. I did nine pigs, sold seven, and ended up wintering two of them. And we do sell eggs year-round.
RICK REISINGER: We've been married 26 years, Karen and I. And when we were married in Washington state, we both had the idea that someday we would like to be independent on a farming operation, so we didn't have to go to a regular job. Our products include apples, pears, peaches, plums, cherries, raspberries, and blueberries. We've just added a little at a time to reach where we are now, which is nearly 20 acres of fruit, and mostly [? U-picked ?] at the farm.
STEVE WINKLER: We farm in Rodman, New York, under the farm name Lucky 7 Livestock Company. We farm on 320 acres of land, which is all owned. Most of it is in corn and soybean production. That goes in combination with our livestock.
We raise 600 to 800 hogs a year. We kill about 500 to 600 broilers. And we have 150 to 200 layers. We also carry anywhere, 25 to 50 steers. Again, it's in rotation of pasture and crops of how those numbers fluctuate.
NICK SURDO: People ask me what else we could grow besides hay, corn, and oats. I had been making wine for 30 years, and I said, when I retire, the first thing we're going to do is plant cold-hardy grapes. I had tasted the wines made from our cold-hardy grapes in Minnesota, and came to the conclusion that we could make very good wine out of them. The challenge of making wine with these cold-hardy varieties was something I really was looking forward to.
DEBI LAMPMAN: My mom always had flower beds in the yard. My father was a farmer. So growing things has come naturally. Well, here at Bedlam Gardens, I grow mostly perennials. That's my first love. I love anything that comes back and blooms.
I've been here for 14 years, and just been growing and learning as I go, trying new things every year and enjoying it. Nobody goes home with plants that they don't know how to take care of, so that they have a very high success rate with plants from Bedlam Gardens.
DANI FRIEDMAN-BAKER: This is our third season of growing vegetables here at Cross Island Farms. My partner, David, and I hadn't planned on being farmers. I was looking for a place with land, so when I retired from my state job, I would have plenty of opportunity to do things outdoors.
At this point, we've got a number of pigs. We have five goats that we're planning to breed for meat. We have a handful of roosters that are doing their duty. And we're planning on getting a pass-on from Heifer International of a bred female beef cow. And that's a plan for this fall.
HECTOR TEJADA: My grandparents used to have a farm in Dominican Republic. I came to live in New York City in 1995. And one of my first jobs was selling for somebody at the farmers market.
I started being a farm worker. You know, after being a vendor, I went to the farm. It was a totally new experience. I had to start from zero and ask every single step what to do and be told what to do.
After two seasons of working at that farm, I find a new farm and development project. The interest of the new farm and development project was find immigrants, especially if they have a farming background, to help them get back to farming. I think that that was my starting point of, I would like to be a farmer myself.
THEA FOLLS: I've always been interested in growing. This is a flower farm that was started in the year 2000. It began modestly, with probably 100- by 200-foot patch of ground, and began with farmers' markets, sales to farmers' markets.
I do a lot of retail private party work now, and wedding work. And I love being part of a bride's wedding day. I always tell the flowers, if they're picked to be in a wedding, they're the luckiest flowers in the world.
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Meet twelve farmers from across New York State, representing a range of ages, experience, farm types and sizes, management styles and goals.
In the Voices of Experience series from the Beginning Farmers Resource Center, you'll find the kind of dirt-under-the-fingernails advice that can only come from someone who's been there.
The NY Beginning Farmer Project is led by a team of Cornell Cooperative Extension Educators in partnership with the Cornell Small Farms Program. The project, launched in 2006 in response to increasing interest in farm start-ups, aims to enhance the likelihood of success of new ag enterprises by making the best resources and training available to new and diversifying farmers.