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Alums Advise Prospective Farmers

“Farmers should be respected just like doctors and lawyers,” said Meredith Epstein, ‘08, at a presentation she gave with fellow alum Guy Kilpatric, ‘09, on the successes both have found as part of a growing movement of young farmers in the United States.

As part of “Do It in the Dark” Month, the event was sponsored by the Student Environmental Action Coalition, the Campus Community Farm and EcoHouse on Feb. 3.

Though neither comes from an agricultural background, Kilpatric and Epstein became interested in farming at St. Mary’s as members of the Community Garden Club.

Since graduation, they have spent their time cultivating their careers in sustainable farming.

Most recently, they both served as apprentices at the Center for Agroecology & Sustainable Food Systems at the University of California, Santa Cruz.

In the apprenticeship, they learned more about a growing community of “greenhorns,” a name used to describe young adults who are getting progressively more interested in farming.

They explained that the program also gave them a more scientific background when it came to sustainable farming.

Along with the 700 hours of field work in the farm during the six-month long program, apprentices spent 300 hours in the classroom.

“The most important thing is that there are a lot of people who are willing to reach out to others new to farming,” explained Kilpatric.

Epstein and Kilpatric described other opportunities available, including programs that connect young farmers with others who have become too old to farm their land.

Instead of selling their land and risking development, older farmers can connect with younger farmers and keep the land as an agricultural zone.

“I don’t know if the Career Development Center gives advice on how to be a farmer,” said Kilpatric, but he felt it was important that students know of successful young farmers.

“I am getting a salary comparable to any recent college grad with a degree in biology, economics, political science,” he explained.

Epstein added that it is important for young people to know “it is possible to also be successful” as a farmer, no matter their academic background.

Kilpatric majored in English and writes about farming while Epstein had a student-designed major in environmental studies.

“Farming is a lot more than just digging around in the dirt,” said senior Tess Wier, President of the Campus Community Farm, “so it’s good to see how alum with a liberal arts background were able to apply their education to this very important field.”

“It’s exciting to bring home all the knowledge, the experience, exciting to bring back the excitement,” Epstein said, explaining why she and Kilpatric wanted to speak at St. Mary’s about their farming experiences.

“I just wish there had been some way for me to learn what I learned in Santa Cruz here in a liberal arts setting,” she concluded.

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