We Can Revive Devastated Communities by Teaching People to Farm


Gardening Lessons

by Guest Blogger, Jane Hersey, Feingold Association of the US

Recently, I watched a TV show called “Secret Millionaire” and thought of the wonderful work of The Weston A. Price Foundation and Polyface Farm, a model of sustainable grass based farming in my home state of Virginia.

In the show, a wealthy couple traveled to a small town in Oregon — called Oakridge, located SE of Eugene.

Since the two lumber mills closed, the town has been in desperate straits. Services that used to be provided by the town are now barely being covered by volunteers. The schools have laid off teachers and support personnel, and are only open 4 days a week. They have a program where children can take home a small paper sack with a little donated food to help them get through the weekend. Their dream is to have a little more money so they can afford to put a can of ravioli in each of the bags (no comment!). There’s more, but you get the idea.

As you can predict, the couple gave generous checks so that the town can continue a bit longer. But it’s no solution.

I live very close to Jamestown VA, where people risked their lives to travel to the new world and managed to live and grow. I often think of Joel Salatin’s dad who took the scrubbiest land in Swoope, Virginia and made it the rich, fertile farm now known the world over as Polyface Farm. Sally Fallon Morell of the Weston A. Price Foundation is following in this tradition with P.A. Bowen Farmstead in Southern Maryland. In fact, Sally and Joel with their activism and education efforts have already inspired thousands of others to start homesteads or small farms around U.S. and across the globe.

So what if there was some way to reach the people in hard-hit communities and show them how they can ensure their families are well fed, and at the same time have a surplus of food to sell to others? And what if other communities could be helped to bring back the heritage of our great grandparents and learned to become self-sufficient?  There are communities like this throughout the country, and just imagine the impact it would have on agriculture in the US if small, prosperous farms began to develop all over!

I am an odd bird to talk about this since I can’t even grow a tomato plant, but I have such a deep respect for those who can. Please give this idea some thought, and maybe the Universe will find a way it could happen.

Jane Hersey is the  national director of the Feingold Association of the US, and has worked with the organization since 1976. Jane is the author of “Why Can’t My Child Behave?” and “Healthier Food for Busy People.” Also, she edits the Association’s newsletter, Pure Facts. To learn more about the Feingold program which helps those struggling with food additive sensitivities, visit the Feingold website.

Editors Note: Mark and Jill Baker of Michigan have launched a farming school. You can sponsor a student to their school by making an online donation. Check it out on their website: Anyone Can Farm.


  1. Ms. Hersey,

    Surely, you CAN grow a tomato plant. It is just like any other skill which one develops. With knowledge & practice, one’s skill and ability improves. I urge you to grow a tomato plant and keep doing it until you have successfully harvested a crop.

    Nancy Babbitt

  2. There is a different way to farm, and to learn to farm, that is not complicated or expensive. It teaches new farmers how to get income-producing farms in and off the ground quickly, with low risk, minimal investment, and without having to own much, if any land. It is called SPIN Farming. It is now being practiced by thousands of first generation farmers around the US and Canada who use the SPIN-Farming online learning series to teach themselves how to make money farming, and mentor themselves via the SPIN online support group. SPIN-Farming literally makes agriculture accessible to anyone, anywhere.

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