Farming: A Holistic Approach

Recently Kimmy and I attended a farming class at SUNY Ulster by Rachel Sneider. Although the class was titled “Farming: A Business Approach,” I felt that a more appropriate title could have been “Farming: A Holistic Approach.”

We did discuss business topics, but more so near the end of the class. Not that I’m complaining mind you. We did get a lot out of it.

Most of what Rachel presented was the kind of soul searching, planning, and holistic goal outlining I’ve already put a considerable amount of time and energy into.

It was comforting to have an experienced, successful farmer confirm that we’re on the right path (on paper and in our hearts anyway).

Here’s a quick overview of the class:

Working on the land requires the development of special skills and capacities including a strong, heartfelt relationship to the natural world. But, it also requires a honed strategic sense for how to respect and marshal one’s resources in order to develop a farming enterprise that is socially, ecologically and economically sustainable over a long period of time. This class will cover an overview of farming in the Northeast, the importance of strategic planning for the growth of a farm, a basic understanding of farm budget and the realities of direct marketing.

You and Your Farm

What moved me most was when Rachel talked about “You and Your Farm.”

She put forth the notion that time: past, present and future are merely different reflections of the same image.

With time being unified and a deep commitment on our part, everyone in the class is essentially willing their way towards their farm of their dreams.

Some would call this the “power of positive thinking.” I call it worth the price of admission because she had poetically articulated something I’ve only felt before.


Another key takeaway worth mentioning was on creating holistic management goals.

I’ve seen videos of the talks by Allan Savory and read much of the resources from his Institute’s website.

Starting with a quality of life statement as the foundation and building upon that is quite a different approach for any venture.

What we discussed in class were examples from Rachel’s previous students and what she recommends in crafting our own goals.

Each part works together and will evolve over time.

Creating a Three Part Holistic Goal

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  • Quality of Life – define the way you want to live your life
  • Forms of Production – what you need to produce in order to create that “quality of life”
  • Future Resource Base – what resources will be required to sustain the forms of production

Back to Business?

Obviously easier said than done. It’s important to note that creating a holistic goal makes up the very core of your farm and your business. Aha! Yes, sustainable business.

Perhaps this IS the business approach after all. Isn’t sustainable farming one of the major entrepreneurial challenges of our time?

Farming promises lots of hard work, little money and perhaps a quality of life that enriches the community.

Well, I know I’ve got a long road to hoe… so back to business for now in the journey.

Rachel Schneider has served as Hawthorne Valley Farm’s market gardener and greenhouse manager and initiated, developed and administered the farm CSA for 10 years. She also witnessed and supported the growth of Hawthorne Valley Farm as a successful commercial enterprise. In 2008 she founded the HVF Learning Center in order to bring professional farmer training, farm based activities and knowledge of bio-dynamic agriculture out to the general public.

4 thoughts on “Farming: A Holistic Approach

  1. Curtiss Hemm says:

    Creating a Three Part Holistic Goal
    Quality of Life – define the way you want to live your life
    Forms of Production – what you need to produce in order to create that “quality of life”
    Future Resource Base – what resources will be required to sustain the forms of production
    I think this is the base thought of most small business owners and entrepreneurs, regardless of industry. In particular I think this rings truest in the hands on realm of food (production, distribution and cooking).

    Great little piece here. We all could take a look at these three lines and bring clarity to our daily lives and help establish our long term vision of where we would like to be.

    Thank you!

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