Start a Foundation Farm School? Learn to Grow

What about establishing a Foundation Farming School, say near San Francisco in Richmond or El Cerrito?    A motto might be “Learn to Grow.”   This school could have the farmers live on the property and teach each other and explore new ways to grow– grow food, grow personally, and grow new techniques.     Everyone a student everyone a teacher.

The San Francisco area has some unique things to offer:  a taste for good food, very smart and adventurous people, and a good farming climate.    Maybe we could bring this together to make something important:  a development environment for growing new ideas and making them real.    Then the new ideas that are worth replicating could spread to other farms.

I can think of some inspiring people in the Bay Area that could help think this through:  Pilar Reber of Sunnyside Organics, the Farmer/Lawyer/Grange Master Lawrence Jaffe in Sebastopol, and John Jeavons the genius of low-inputs farming.   I am sure there are many more, but maybe a meeting to discuss where this could go.   I am wondering if we could get the land were available for free, then could it support itself after a upfront startup grant?  In that way it would be a “Foundation” farming school because it could be built on a permanent foundation of debt-free land.

Dreaming further, could it be created on the democratic principles that because so useful during Occupy?   David Graeber’s new book The Democracy Project argues persuasively that if things start with a egalitarian, horizontal approach, then direct democracy can work to run many types of projects.    I do not have much experience in this, but others do and might be able to help.

I am thinking that maybe a gathering of interested people over some good food might be a way to see if this is worthwhile pursuing.   Please comment if you will.


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7 Responses to Start a Foundation Farm School? Learn to Grow

  1. Tom Garnett says:

    Interesting post. There is an already existing and growing network of sustainable agriculuture organizations that are tackling some of the issues raised by your posting, e.g.

    Education, training, organizing, studying, lobbying, arguing etc. Lots of good people.

    I am writing this to emphasize that it is possible to build on lots of good work already being done. That will leverage any efforts.

  2. Lawrence says:

    I’m glad to see your dream of a farm school is still alive and growing. The need for millions of new farmers has been outlined by many people including Richard Heinberg in a recent speech he made at our Sebastopol Grange Hall.

    The California state Grange has also been working on a farm school. Perhaps we can enlist its Chief proponent, Damien Parr.

  3. Tom Garnett says:

    There are already functioning farm “schools” that are not in the agribusiness/CAFO deathgrip, e.g.


    There are many, many effective alternative, organic, sustainable, low input farming internships available. Here is one but there are many others:

    There is an entire, established functioning community out there. I strongly suggest getting to know some of the work already being done before even considering a farm foundation. There are many non-for-profit farm foundations out there. You can build on their mistakes and successes. In addition to the actual farm “work” many in the sustainable farming community are grappling with the political implications. Some of them are putting their lives and livelihood on the line.

    An entire alternative food distribution network is emerging in multiple parts of the country. In many places it is under attack or suspicion. There is ample room for economic and social modelling to find better solutions. Think about farmers markets, buying clubs, web based direct marketing, clandestine raw milk distribution, etc.

    • brewster says:


      Thank you for the comments and links. Yes, we would have to figure out a niche before doing something. leveraging others is the best practice.

      I would hope that we would grow food locally and learn new ways of doing it tapping into the smart folks in the area. but land prices are high if we are close to San Francisco.

      I had forgotten that you have moved back to the land and know so much about this.


  4. Tom Garnett says:

    My perception is that there are many people who would like to farm “green” but who are not able to. There are many reasons they are not able to but one of them, IMHO, is not because learning or educational opportunities are absent, hard to find, or expensive.

    Some of the reasons they are not able to:

    1. availability of land. Costs for rural land are going up, even for leasing. Multiple causes.
    2. Dysfunctional regulation designed or mega agribusiness operations applied to small farmers and totally geared to non-green thinking.
    3. An distribution system that runs on intermediation.
    4. Great difficulties in supporting oneself and family with the income derived.

  5. Nobodhi says:

    Leveraging existing resources, here are two more:

    A local farmer , Tree, with an existing community program is being evicted


    The annual Petaluma grange meet will be at the Seed Bank, 6:30 Monday Dec 16.

  6. Marco Giustini says:

    Do you know the Open Source Ecology project?

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