A Hamilton College Perspective at EFI

We are thrilled to have Ianthe Lekometros and Rachael Wilikin from Hamilton College’s Adirondack Semester spending their internship at Essex Farm Institute.

When asked why they chose to spend time each week on Essex Farm, they offered this perspective:

There is a growing tendency of young people from the Adirondacks to move away in search of more resources, whether that be a better range of schooling or a greater number of job opportunities. This phenomena – often referred to as the “Brain Drain” –  is universally common across rural America. In an atmosphere where demand for local food is exponentially growing, agriculture presents itself as a turning ground for the park, a platform that both attracts young people from urban centers and encourages those that might have previously ventured outward to remain. Agriculture, in this way, no longer possesses the taboo that it once did; it has become a draw instead of a deterrent. There is dirt here, and that is part of the allure.

Essex Farm is at the forefront of this movement back to agriculture, creating a space through the Essex Farm Institute that provides a variety of opportunities for farmers of differing skill levels. Not only are people drawn to the park in order to gain experience in a farming environment like that of the Adirondacks, but EFI creates more job opportunities on Essex Farm itself, making available a professional network that benefits both new and experienced farmers. There is a subsequent community of Essex Farm alumni that have successfully started their own farms in the Adirondacks. The program places emphasis on how local farms can stimulate a community, while promoting stewardship of natural resources through working with the changing system of the environment instead of overpowering it. Perhaps most importantly, EFI is working to prepare farmers to venture out and create farms of their own.

The Institute is structured by gaining core competencies through practical and experiential learning on the farm; incoming farmers learn by doing and, of equal importance, by asking.  As inexperienced farmers entering into the first stages of EFI, we have encountered an outpouring of excitement from current farmers who have readily aided us in answering our many questions. This collaborative working environment encourages an emphasis on community, while also allowing enough room for self-directed pursuits and problem solving.