Joshua Dautoff’s Story
I started managing my family’s flower farm after I graduated from college. My parents were getting ready to retire and I was excited to get back to the farm and begin transitioning to organic practices.
What I didn’t know was that our business had been suffering recently because cut-flowers were now being imported from other countries. My parents had done well for over 35 years, but the industry changed in a short period of time. It was now cheaper to grow flowers in South America without regulations, fly them to Miami and truck them across the United States, than it was for us to grow and sell them to our neighbors. We, along with most of other US flower growers, were forced out of business.
This has been an opportunity for me to learn and rethink how I can maintain my family’s farm. I am not sure if this is true for many other farmers, but I cannot imagine doing anything else. My roots grow deeply in the land where I was born and raised. It gave us everything we have. And now all I want is to prepare myself to return to the farm with new ideas and the capacity to follow through with them.
My request to the Raising Organic Family Farms program is to help me attend a soil microbiology workshop with Dr. Elaine Ingham. She is Chief Scientist at the Rodale Institute and one of the foremost experts on compost and compost tea. In her week-long workshops she explains the role of microorganisms in the soil foodweb. This short course teaches about the life in the soil and its relationship to the plants we grow. The short course, airfare, lodging, food and a microscope (which is part of the course) costs $2500.
My agricultural experience is 100% experiential. My mom taught me about plants, my dad taught me about business and life has filled in the rest. I would like to take advantage of this transition to study and become a better farmer. For some, this course might seem unnecessary or academic. But for me, it offers important tools I need to reopen our farm.
I am not sure what our farm will evolve into… when I look around, what I see are people hungry for a connection, a connection to nature, to something bigger than themselves, something rooted. I think this is an important service that farmers can offer if we can develop it ourselves, with our land and our work. This missing connection is the source of many challenges we are facing and it is one of the underlying reasons why organic growing has found support. There are many details to work out regarding what our farm business will become, but this is the heart of what motivates me to farm.
I appreciate the Raising Organic Family Farms program for considering my application and for supporting the next generation of organic farmers.
Attached are some photos from our farm.