The promise and appeal of working their own land drew nearly 60 north Alabama residents to a unique program providing hands-on lessons about the agricultural lifestyle.
Farming 101 is an eight-week program led by County Extension Agent Tony Glover covering topics like soil management, small livestock, fruit and vegetable production, beekeeping and general farm management. The program targets anyone interested in agriculture – from novice gardeners to experienced farmers – and provides direction for becoming full-time farmers.
“A lot of people, from retirees to young professionals and students, want to farm, but they’re not sure where to look for help,” Glover said. “The Farming 101 program teaches the fundamentals of agriculture and provides resources for research-based ag information. New farmers meet their Extension agents and established farmers who can give specific instruction on their operations.”
Trent and Jennifer Boyd of Cullman County say they signed up for the program to answer questions from aspiring farmers but ended up learning tips to implement at home.
“I farm mainly because it’s God’s calling for us,” said Trent, who previously worked as an engineer. “I felt like He was calling me back to the farm, and this is where I was needed.”
Today, the Boyds and their six children live on 48 acres that’s been in Trent’s family since 1909. They raise fruits and vegetables, along with hogs, chicken, sheep and a couple dairy cows. Their produce is sold to local restaurants, at farmers markets and in a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) program. In 2012, they claimed the Alabama record for largest pumpkin, weighing in at 885 pounds.
They share their love of farming through farm tours and encouraging others to consider agricultural careers.
“People are starving for this kind of thing,” Trent said. “They want to get back to what their grandparents did. Our main goal is to get people interested in farming again.”
Brandon and Laura Reeder of Birmingham recently caught the farming bug. He is a horseshoer, and she’s a dietitian, but they have high hopes for land they recently purchased.
“This is what God presented to us, so we bought some land in Jefferson County,” said Brandon, who plans to open their farm as an agritourism attraction. “There’s such a connection with the soil and dirt and growing your own food. It’s hard to explain until you experience it.”
Through Farming 101 program, the Reeders and Boyds became good friends and are learning from each other.
Brandon said he hopes his farm will one day resemble Harvest Farms, but added he realizes that will require a lot of hard work and patience.
“Writing business plans, doing cost analyses and return on investment plansâ€¦ It really is overwhelming, but exciting,” Brandon said. Follow the Boyds’ farming adventures by liking “Trent Boyd Harvest Farm” at Facebook.com. For information on Farming 101, contact Glover at firstname.lastname@example.org.