American Farmland Trust Launches Farmer Consultant Program To Accelerate The Adoption Of Regenerative Agriculture Practices
The program pairs expert farmers with those interested in gaining new soil health skills, encouraging peer-to-peer learning.
Northampton, MA– The Massachusetts Coordinated Soil Health Program, a collaborative project spearheaded by American Farmland Trust, announced its first cohort of farmer consultants as part of the Massachusetts Healthy Soils Farmer Consultant Program. The purpose of the program is to provide farmers who are newly adopting regenerative agriculture and healthy soils practices with access to farmers who are experts in soil health management systems across scales, areas of ability, and farm products.
“Farmers prefer to learn from other farmers,” said American Farmland Trust’s New England Soil Health Specialist Caro Roszell, “and just like in any industry, innovation often moves through social networks. But many soil health management practices, especially tillage reduction, are still so new that farmers may not know anyone who has tried—let alone mastered—them.”
By identifying early-adopter farmers who are also excited to talk to other farmers about soil health (and by compensating them fairly for their time) the program is designed to break down barriers between farmer networks and accelerate the peer-to-peer knowledge exchange. Less formal and structured than a more traditional farmer mentorship program, advice-seeking farmers are welcome to reach out with just a few quick questions about a piece of equipment, or they can set up longer appointments to get more in-depth support.
The idea for the program was seeded in a conversation between Roszell and Jen Salinetti, co-owner operator of Woven Roots Farm, as they collaborated on a case study of her farm for the Massachusetts Healthy Soils Action Plan. Salinetti, who has been growing no-till organic vegetables in Berkshire County for over 20 years, shared that the increasing popularity of no-till and soil health has inundated her with requests for advice and guidance from other farmers hoping to implement similar systems.
“I am excited to be helping to create such a thoughtful support system for farmers,” said Salinetti. “By connecting farmers who are ready to commit to more holistic practices of land care with farmers who have the lived experience of this, we are creating a circular relationship that all beings benefit from. New and transitioning farmers get to receive real-time support without the additional strain of both finding and hiring a consultant while experienced farmers get to be valued and compensated for their knowledge sharing. The land, the farmers, and the surrounding community all become more cared for in this process.”
Now a member of the Massachusetts Coordinated Soil Health Program’s Advisory Committee, Salinetti helps to steer the development of programs that support farmers in implementing healthy soils practices. She is also one of the first cohorts of farmer consultants, which also includes Wally Czajkowski of Plainview Farm, Laura Davis of Long Life Farm, Mike Davidian of Davidian’s Farm Market, and Jim Koebke or Walnut Lane Farm. The Farmer Consultants all have vastly different farms, scales, and practices—there are organic and non-organic farms, that range in size from 3–150 acres in cultivation and include one dairy farmer. What they all share is extensive experience in tillage reduction, cover crops, and other practices that maintain and build soil health over time.
Interested farmers can read about the farmer consultants, find out more about the program, and contact the farmer consultants at https://farmland.org/massachusetts-farmer-consultant-program/
For questions about the program, reach out to Caro Roszell at firstname.lastname@example.org