For Youngest Agripreneur Training Program Graduate: A Vision of Small-Scale Farms.
Editor’s note: Andy Kell graduated from the Agripreneur Training Program fall 2013. He just finished raising his first flock with Main Street Project and plans on raising another flock this fall.
Tell me a little about yourself.
I’m a 16 year old, I play music, and I don’t do much else (other than school). I don’t have a past history with farming or anything, but it interests me a lot.
What got you interested in being a participant of the Agripreneur Training Program?
At first I was like, “How can I make money so I can buy a really nice guitar?” But during the process that changed. It became about a healthy life for real living animals.
I hoped to learn about the behavior of chickens, and how to farm and care for animals. I think farming is really cool and I just wanted to learn for the sake of learning.
Main Street Project’s ‘Agripreneur Training Program’ provided a good space for me to do that. The training had a lot to do with starting a business, and that was really interesting and a good thing to learn. I think if you’re going to be farming for a long time, which I plan to do, learning about small business management is great.
I wish during my training there would have been more farming, like there is now in the current Spring 2014 training program.
What is your vision of what a sustainable food system should look like in the US?
The current farming system is not very good. My vision would be small-scale farms owned by people growing food for the people. Not like large corporations that mass-produce and ship it, and where people don’t know where it’s from.
What concerns you the most about conventional farming?
The food corporations grow is not in the best interest of the animals. The animals that they raise are not really cared for properly. The places are like animal factories. Large farms with animal factories and thousands of acres of monocrops are not sustainable for this planet. It’s silly that in Minnesota we cut down forests for only 4 months of a growing season out of an entire year.
By continuing to be part of this culture of excess we are damaging ecosystems and our Earth. In this culture, there’s a sense of disconnection that most people have from nature that makes them rationalize hurting the planet.
Historically, the Americas were so much healthier when they were only inhabited by indigenous peoples. Things changed when the Europeans came to this land and killed the native peoples who saw their connection to nature and saw it as an equal-level organism with a life and feelings, not as something to exploit. They believed, ‘If I hurt the environment, I hurt myself.’ In contrast, this other European culture thought that nature was something to be exploited to make money. So living in that culture now is not sustainable and it’s damaging to this planet.
How was the experience of raising poultry for you? What were your favorite things and challenging things about raising your first flock?
You get the little chicks in these boxes and you have this little space in the coop and you put the heat lamps. They are so tiny they hardly take up half the space. But then in two weeks you have to expand their corral space. It’s crazy how they start in such a small space and they end up taking a lot of space, which is obvious because things grow. But seeing that and being part of that process and feeding them and taking care of them is pretty cool. That was my favorite part.
When we got them it was still pretty cold; it was late spring and there was still snow and rain. A lot of the baby chicks died. It was rainy for a whole week and they couldn’t go outside so some of them went crazy and a bunch of them killed each other. So that was pretty bad. That was pretty hard. As a result of the weather, the chickens were overcrowded.
Other than that, most of it went pretty well. They were awesome birds!
What are the next steps for you?
I’m currently working with a friend of mine in his farm to set up a production unit. He’s starting his farm on some land that his dad is letting him use. They have a deal that if he works certain number of hours a week, then he can use that land for his farm.
I don’t plan on going to college right out of high school so I’ll be spending a lot of time raising his chickens and my own chickens with Main Street Project and helping my friend with his farm raising a few backyard egg layers too. I see a lot of farming in my future. We’re also interested in setting up an aquaponic system like the one in Regi’s place.
What would you tell other teenagers who are thinking of going into farming?
It’s really cool but it takes a lot of time and energy. Waking up early every morning, like at 6 o’clock or 5-ish is hard! I don’t like going to sleep early so that make waking up even more challenging. You enjoy the day, you get to appreciate the day better. You get to experience the whole thing, from the break of dawn to really late.
I also had the support of my dad and farming allowed us to bond a little bit more.
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