It isn't coincidental that 70% of our visits on this road trip are to other farmer friends. We rarely leave the farm and they rarely leave theirs. One such friend is teaching at the Farm School in Athol, Massachusetts. His girlfriend attends the one year learn to farm program. She is in a class of 15 adults (ranging in ages from 18 to 55). They live, eat, sleep, and work, and work and work and learn on a couple hundred acres of farm and wood land. We were looking over her class schedule for the year and became instantly envious. They are learning a little bit of every aspect of the farming business and lifestyle. They learn to milk cows and work with draft horse power. They learn to tap trees and boil sap for syrup. They learn timber framing basics. From how to take apart a chainsaw to how to shear a sheep they seem to have covered nearly everything. Granted, this program is just a year and to intimately learn to shear a sheep many shearers would tell you it will take hundreds of sheep over many months or even years. But they are learning a base of farming and that is what the Farm School offers.
The price for one year will seem prohibitive to many hopeful farmers to be. It is $18k for a full year, which includes full room, board, and tuition. To prepare somebody for a life that makes little money, it seems almost sadistic. But if you compare that to one year at a private or public college it starts to look more reasonable. They also offer some financial aid and work-study opportunities. And the Farm School staff isn't living large off your tuition. I've seen that up close. That money is going directly into making the farm a better place to learn and grow.
I thought I would share the school with you as I have had many inquiries about advice for starting to farm from all manner of folks young and old and this is certainly one option. It is not the only option and it isn't necessarily the one I would choose but it certainly has proven itself an excellent jump start for many young farmers I know and is worth checking out.