In our third episode, you’ll listen to the folks at Vilicus Farms, a first-generation organic, dryland crop farm located in Havre, Montana. Anna Jones-Crabtree, Doug Crabtree, and Paul Neubauer discuss honestly their successes and challenges as they built the operation from scratch as young farmers and in the face of climate variability. They hold a vision of bringing in new farmers who see agriculture as a solution.
They talk about how, in 10 years, the farm grew from 1,280 acres to 7,400 acres and how they are cultivating a conservation-based ethic for sustainable food production, training beginning farmers, and forging different relationships with buyers so that the risk and reward across the supply chain is more equitably shared with farmers.
Climate variability is playing a larger role than anticipated: “We underestimated the impact of climate change on production.” This has influenced Anna and Doug wanting to help get more young people involved. They have a concern that there are not enough people in ag to begin with and yet ag can be a solution. So they want to see more young people get involved. So they started their apprenticeship program and share their experience and skills.
“We are committed to building a farm that is, as much as possible, is a self-sustaining organism, that has minimal reliance on external inputs,” which is important during the time of climate change.
They strive to share the risk between the buyer and seller. They grow under contract and strive for multi-year contracts. Vilicus Farms sells acres, not by volume and try to negotiate a floor and include a ceiling so there is safety for both buyer and seller. “We try to make it about relationships, not just financial transactions.”
(photo by Vilicus Farms)
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