Who are NJ's Beginning Farmers? 

Scroll down to learn more about past Beginning Farmer scholarship recipients!

Farmer Helen Chandler of Whistling Wolf Farm


  Why are beginning farmer scholarships important to you? Scholarships from NOFA-NJ have helped me pursue knowledge and progress, allowing me to improve my farming practices year to year. They have helped me attend conferences, workshops, and courses, all of which provided invaluable tools to my toolbox and introduced me to people that I have come to rely on. 

How has a program you attended on scholarship benefited you and your farm? I received a scholarship to attend a tractor safety and maintenance course just after purchasing my first tractor. I had never before owned a piece of equipment of that caliber that I was solely responsible for maintaining. The tractor safety and maintenance course let me review common safety mistakes, see inside the engine, ask as many questions as I wanted, and get some first hand experience with regular machine maintenance. I brought all this back to my farm and applied it to my equipment maintenance protocol. It was extremely beneficial, allowing me to avoid going in cold. 

Helen is a member of the JP Networking Group and graduate of the Journeyperson Program.

Farmer Ashley Gamarello of Black Forest Anna


 
   Why is NOFA-NJ's Beginning Farmer Program important to you? There are so many reasons why the NOFA program is important to me, but most of my gratitude lies with the mentorship and all of the amazing people I have met through it and because of this program. I would not have succeeded without my mentor's guidance, and the NOFA staff provided me with unwavering support and a strong community of positive like-minds. Everyone that is a part of the team gets excited in other people's successes and shares the pain/understandings in defeats. For, as we all know, farming in any capacity isn't all we photograph sometimes!

How has a program you attended on scholarship benefited you and your farm? I was able to attend the full NOFA-NJ Winter Conference on scholarship during a year when it would have been too tight financially to pay for myself. It was the winter before I was really getting started, and was able to sift through what information I could implement that year, focusing on soil, and what had to wait, which for me happened to be me irrigation system. 

What is your special farm talent? [It's actually my dog's talent.] Ollie, my little Jack Russell, appointed herself Chief of Deer Control, which she takes very seriously. 

Ashley is a graduate of the Journeyperson Program. 

Farmer Kyle Goedde of Harvest Moon Farm


 
   Why are beginning farmer scholarships important to you? As a young farmer, learning and working on other farms you are often working for something near minimum wage. If you don't have the opportunity to live on the farm where you work, paying for rent and other necessities becomes a challenge, especially here in New Jersey. This situation doesn't leave young farmers much money to spend on attending classes to further their education, so these scholarships are vital to ensuring that beginning farmers still have access to the educational resources NOFA-NJ offers. I've been fortunate to have had access to these scholarships and was able to attend classes I otherwise would not have, please help ensure future beginning farmers have the same opportunities!

How has a program you attended on scholarship benefited you and your farm? Without having attended the Tractor Safety and Maintenance class NOFA-NJ offered with Shane LaBrake last fall I wouldn't have had the confidence in my mechanical abilities to feel comfortable buying a couple of old (circa 1948) cultivating tractors to use in my operation. Having those tractors tuned up and ready for the field is a great feeling, and will help us keep on top of the weeds this season!

What is your special farm talent? I can huck a tomato pretty far. No accuracy, but far!

Kyle is a member of the Journeyperson Program, JP Networking Group, and NOFA-NJ Incubator Farm. 

Farmer Matt Hand of Hand Picked Farm 


 
   Why are beginning farmer scholarships important to you? The scholarships help me to learn about a new idea/enterprise before I just dive in and learn from experience. They also provide the opportunity to meet other farmers and see how they do things, spurring new ideas. 

How has a program you attended on scholarship benefited you and your farm? The organic orchard management series has given me a vision for adding permanent fruiting crops to the farm, something I had zero experience with. I have three apple trees now and just took shipment of our first raspberry planting!

What is your special farm talent? I'm good at not working too hard, meaning I try everyday to keep the farm and family balance. I try to put down the hoe every evening to make a nutritious dinner every night and be a great father and husband.

Matt is a member of the Journeyperson Program and the JP Networking Group.

Farmer Jess Isbrecht of Green Duchess Farm


 

   Why are beginning farmer scholarships important to you? NOFA-NJ scholarships are a very important aspect of my farming education. The information and experience I've gained through attending workshops is priceless. However, the entrance fees to said workshops have a price indeed! NOFA's scholarship funds allow me to attend more classes than I would otherwise. Starting a farm is a very expensive endeavor; budgets are very tight. It's a great comfort knowing that I don't have to compromise my farm education due to lack of finances.

How has a program you attended on scholarship benefited you and your farm? My farm has benefited from each and every class I've attended thanks to NOFA's scholarship fund. Most notably, my farm was able to produce, sell, and deliver turkey and chicken meat thanks to a workshop I attended on scholarship called "Pasture-raised Poultry Production and Processing". My animals benefited from this training by ending their lives in a relatively stress-free environment on the farm they called home. Additionally, my customers benefited by receiving delivious meat that was raised and processed in a humane way following proper sanitary protocols.

What is your special farm talent? Acting as a perch for my baby turkeys!  (See picture to the left!)

Jess is a member of the Journeyperson Program and JP Networking Group.
Taylor James, farm manager at Fernbrook Farm CSA
 


  Why are beginning farmer scholarships important to you? NOFA-NJ scholarships are so important for a farmer like me, who has had zero formal agricultural training, to take advantage of educational opportunities to improve my farming skills. The scholarships have enabled me to attend workshops and to meet other organic farmers I would not have experienced otherwise. And it's these experiences that truly help, both to gain new perspectives and to sharpen my current growing skills.

How has a program you attended on scholarship benefited you and your farm? When I received a scholarship to attend the NOFA-NJ Winter Conference, it was like letting a kid loose in a candy shop. Aside from the wealth of information I eagerly digested from the workshops, I was most inspired by the cooperative spirit and dedication of fellow organic New Jersey farmers. We've been able to draw heavily on this talent pool to organize on-farm tours and workshops, and to continue to build a strong farm community. 

What is your special farm talent? Beside an uncanny ability to dig up heart-shaped potatoes, I have a special knack for working too late in the fields on beautiful summer evenings.

 Taylor Naughton, farm manager at Lima Family Farms
 


  Why are beginning farmer scholarships important to you? Beginning farmer scholarships have been important to me because they allowed me to continue my agricultural education at a time when I was interning and truly had no extra money to spend on educational classes that have served me well as I advanced. Without these scholarships I would've also likely missed out on many networking opportunities and friendships.

How has a program you attended on scholarship benefited you and your farm? The "Exploring the Small Farm Dream" course was particularly influential on me because it made me decide to take the leap into farming. The course is demanding as it makes you evaluate every aspect of how you would make your farm dream a reality, from finances to your own personal skills. And it's hard. But it's very important for figuring out if it is possible/desirable for you and lays the gruond work for a business plan. It gave me the confidence to jump in and take a farm internship. I've also reviewed the worksheets in the years since then and it's nice to see where I've improved and gained knowledge.

What is your special farm talent? My special farm talent is transplanting. On a water wheel transplanter, I can put a board across the two seats and transplant by myself on the back while planting 2 rows. Check out the photo for proof!
 
 

Farmer Diane Skoss of Windsong Organic Farm

 
  Why are beginning farmer scholarships important to you? There's an endless list of expensive things you need to get started on a farm: deer fencing, irrigation, tractors, to name a few. Having the extra funds provided by the Beginning Farmer Program for books, classes, and conferences allowed me to learn some of the million-and-one things a farmer needs to know to survive, and gave me the financial flexibility to begin building out the farm's infrastructure. The program also encouraged me to create a solid business plan to provide a roadmap to future success. 

How has a program you attended on scholarship benefited you and your farm?Scholarships to the Winter Conference were available when I needed them most. Classes on soil health management, running a CSA, growing microgreens, pastured poultry, among many others, provided inspiration that I use every day at Windsong Organic Farm. Even more important are the relationships I've forged with other organic growers, who are, without exception, among the most generous folk I have encountered anywhere.

What is your special farm talent? I am particularly menacing with a machete and can strip a 30-foot piece of bamboo of its branches in no time at all. 

Diane is a member of the JP Networking Group and a graduate of the Journeyperson Program.