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May 31, 2021

Dreaming of a Farm of His Own

Working on one farm is hard work enough—Robert Baldwin Jr. works on two.

While building his own 10-acre produce operation in Worton, Maryland, Robert works fulltime for a neighboring farmer. “Each day I start my morning working at my operation until it is time to head to work where I put in my full day. Then, I return to my operation where I work well past dark,” he says.

Robert Baldwin Jr.

Robert’s hard work is paying off. His operation grows every year, and he continues to bring in new customers. “I work long hours, so I always keep my promises to my customers,” he says.

Growing up, Robert was active in 4H, an agricultural club, worked farm jobs as a teenager, and studied agribusiness in college. “I always knew I wanted to be a farmer,” he says, “Now I get to build my own farming operation.”

As his operation expands, Robert is focused on establishing a crop rotation that promotes fewer pesticides and builds soil health. This year, he plans to add string beans and edamame to his produce line up. “Splitting the field into string beans and edamame the year after corn and the year before pumpkins would address the crop rotation issues I’m currently juggling while I’m also implementing legumes to help the soil,” he says.

Robert used a Brighter Future Fund grant to help purchase a string bean picker so he can harvest his new produce at a more scalable size. American Farmland Trust, with the help of Tillamook Creamery, launched the Brighter Future Fund to support farmers in the face of pressing challenges like climate change and COVID-19.

“Picking them by hand just wouldn’t be economical. Now, I can access a new market and provide more vegetable options for my customers,” he says.

I always knew I wanted to be a farmer.

Although he’s making major progress on the acreage he has now, Robert says that moving forward, his biggest barrier as a young farmer is accessing land. “Neither one of my parents were farmers, so I have to find land. It’s tough to even find acreage to rent, let alone own.”

Despite this barrier, Robert says he is optimistic at his ability to grow so far and excited to see where his operation goes. “I’m taking advantage of every opportunity I can to eventually reach my goal of working full time for myself,” he says.

Brighter Future Fund

Informed by farmers, built on experience, and inspired by you. AFT’s Brighter Future Fund carries forward AFT's commitment to addressing inequalities in our agricultural system by providing grants up to $5,000 to BIPOC, LGBTQ+, and/or women farmers nationwide. Help us support another round of inspiring farmers by donating to the fund today! 100% of all funds raised will go directly to farmers to strengthen farm resilience, enhance farm viability, and improve access to land.

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