I have been doing some research for a super secret project (to be announced later in spring!), and found some great information to share with those of you who might have more time than money, thanks to this slow-moving, so-called economic recovery we are in.
First, I heard about SPIN Farming through my permaculture list. This program is designed to help people take very small parcels of land that they can get hold of easily, and turn out food for market, either through direct marketing to the public (such as grower's markets) or sales to restaurants. I toured their website, and was fascinated at their approach. They have pioneered a way for people to use very small plots, even as small as a backyard or a 1/4 acre plot, of your own, borrowed or leased, and use bio-intensive methods to get a high yield, consistently. Founders Wally and Gail operate a sub-acre urban farm in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, and have farmed for two decades. They decided to share their expertise with others, and help people grow urban farms in particular. They offer a lot of business knowledge from their personal experience, and include information about speciality markets, such as raising flowers to sell. I haven't personally met anyone using their system, but gained a lot of knowledge from their websites. Many people are successfully contributing to their local food systems, and making a living doing it!
My region of the country is actually pretty rich in mentors these days. California has great growing conditions, and while one of the 'homes' of agri-business in the U.S., was also the starting point for a whole slow-food, eat-local movement that has spread across the country. I have been reading a bio of Alice Waters, founder of Chez Panisse and the Edible Schoolyard, and probably one of the biggest prime movers in getting small farmers and producers going here in California. I am lucky to have friends to turn to whenever I expand in a new direction horticulturally, but not everyone does.
One of those mentors is actually a pioneering ag supply business, Peaceful Valley Farm and Garden Supply. They have been in business for 35 years, providing the supplies that organic gardeners, rather than agri-biz, would need to thrive. In the past few years, they have reached out to support a new generation of start-up small farmers, through their Freshman Farmer program. Those enrolled are mainly in the region near PV's plant in Grass Valley, and their stories are well worth the reading time.
A special note - I skipped a few weeks in my Sustainable Sunday posts; two weeks ago, I was in the midst of my ordeal with Cascade Yarns, and that process is still hanging in the air. I got a response, then wrote to the Customer Service rep, advising her to read through all of your sympathetic and supportive comments to help her decide how to fix the situation, so wanted to leave those posts up before adding anything new to confuse her. Unfortunately, there's still not a solution, but I am moving on in my own way. Then, I spent last weekend down with allergies/cold symptoms, and didn't have a clear enough head to post! Upcoming topics will include high altitude gardening, bees and seed saving. Stay tuned!