Written by Nicole Oveisi, Fair Farms Intern
Fair Farms recently chatted with Ellen Polishuk , a member of our Farmer Advisory Council, to discuss her new book, Start Your Farm: The Authoritative Guide to Becoming a Sustainable 21st Century Farmer, as well as what food and farming books have inspired her.
Start Your Farm was the brainchild of Ellen’s co-author, longtime friend and farmers market pal, Forest Prichard, who suggested the collaboration. With her vegetable growing expertise and his livestock background, Forest believed their combined knowledge would offer valuable insights to aspiring sustainable farmers.
Ellen hopes to inspire people with agricultural dreams to get into farming while providing a cautionary warning about what it actually takes to be a farmer. She balances the joys and opportunities of farming while reiterating that rather than being a hobby, “farming is a business, it’s hard, and it fully entrenches one’s life.” Because there are so many books on the market regarding how to grow, Ellen felt it was necessary to write a book that pivoted from conventional how-to manuals and instead gives insight into the foundational ideas on farming, a necessary perspective that has been missing within agriculture scholarship.
What makes the book so compelling is how Ellen’s upbringing and background helped shape her perspectives when writing this book. Growing up in the suburbs, she wasn’t exposed to farming, and didn’t know any farmers. “Everything that I got to become a farmer, I had to go and get,” she explained. To become a farmer, she worked on other people’s farms for a long time. In doing so, she gained valuable experience watching others make mistakes and noted the many ways she would do things differently. She encourages people to first work on others’ farms before trying to work for themselves, as this is the “best and cheapest way to get educated.”
One book that greatly impacted Ellen is The Lean Farm by Ben Hartman. She applied the principles of lean manufacturing that she learned to small-scale sustainable farming. The book, she noted, completely affected her as a human, a teacher, and a consultant. While books can be enormously helpful, Ellen notes that what really shaped her development as a farmer has been attending conferences.
Ellen started Plant To Profit, her consulting business, to provide production, marketing, labor, and farm management assistance to farmers and ag professionals. She loves helping others grow their profits! To learn more about what Ellen is cooking up, check out her website, and purchase her new book.