I joined the NFU as an Associate Member in 2005, after attending a Local 316 meeting in Sydenham. I was a couple of years out of school, very interested in farming and passionate about community development and social change. During the Sydenham meeting, I heard farmers talking about challenges they faced, ranging from weather to market access to trade agreements. They also had a vision of overcoming those barriers (weather not included). Their vision of the family farm involved economic viability, ecological soundness and direct connections to consumers - or eaters, as they called them.
Having studied community development in school and gone abroad to learn about community resilience in various places, this was the real thing; people working together to meet their own needs and those of the future. They talked of involving eaters in a struggle for a re-localized food system that worked for farmers, returned control to the community, and rebuilt a sense of place and rootedness for families. I was inspired.
Trying to find my own place in the scheme of things, I had the good fortune of meeting Megan Joslin, a local farmer. To make a long story short, we got married and I quit my job and joined the farm, working with Megan and our friend and business partner Eric Williams.
When I reflect on those big decisions, belonging to a strong farm community played an important role in giving me the confidence to give up a good job and start farming. Not only was there a supportive bunch of farmers and eaters, the NFU's grassroots approach meant I could participate in working towards a shared vision.
My NFU membership became a full farm membership. Very exciting! And with the innovative work the NFU continues to do, I'll continue to be a proud member.
Ian Stutt farms at Patchwork Gardens near Battersea.