Artisanal agriculture doesn’t often get much airtime when discussing farm business, and it was time to share a story about a fantastic young farmer who loves what she does.
Farmhouse cheese making was an easy choice for Sophia when she decided on a career in agriculture. Who doesn’t love cheese? Sophia was drawn to the close relationship between the land, the animals that make the milk and the farmer who makes the cheese. Not to forget the direct connection with customers who adore Holy Goat Cheese when it’s sold at farmers markets.
Sophia is a member of the Young Farmers Advisory Council, a group of nine young farmers from across regional Victoria. These young farmers represent a wide range of agriculture industries, and as a Council member Sophia has an opportunity to advocate for small-scale producers and address misconceptions of ‘artisanal’ agriculture.
One misconception Sophia is keen to address is that small scale agriculture is not a significant part of our food production industries. “Small scale agriculture is often overlooked and doesn’t get the attention and resources it deserves. Small ag businesses are typically family owned and important employers in small regional communities, offering local jobs and resilience to rural and regional places. These local agriculture and food businesses are often closely tied with regional identity and are linked to regional tourism”. Sophia would love to see artisanal agriculture recognised for the benefits it offers to community, industry and the environment.
Sophia clearly articulates the benefits she sees first hand from the organic goat dairy farm she works at. Environmental benefits such a raising an animal that can thrive in place where traditional pastures do not, offering a great solution to our changing climate and the increasing likelihood of drought and water scarcity. Benefits to consumers with a growing interest in how and where their food is produced. Community interest in the source of food was evident in 2020 in response to the coronavirus pandemic, with heightened interest in buying local produce direct from the producer. Online sales boomed demonstrating how nimble small-scale producers can be to find markets for their goods.
Artisanal agriculture operates at a different scale and uses different practices to conventional agriculture. To Sophia, the environmental benefits provide a purpose to the physical daily grind of farm work. “My dream is to run my own herd and produce my own farmhouse cheeses. Farming gives me the opportunity to produce beautiful food while I work to leave the planet better than I found it. I want to keep exploring regenerative and ecologically beneficial options for farming such as agroforestry and polycultural systems, and I’m keen to do so alongside other farmers wanting to have a positive impact on the land”.
There is growing interest among young farmers in regenerative agriculture practices, and Sophia is a strong advocate for small-scale agriculture to implement these methods. The career choices for young farmers entering the agriculture industry are vast and can fulfil a range of interests and skill sets. Sophia’s passion for sustainable agriculture is rewarded by her chosen career path in small-scale farmhouse cheesemaking, but thankfully the land and Victorian cheese lovers will benefit too.