SPU - Page 16

Business Sustainable Farming and Profitability Wyebrook Farm SACC-Philadelphia spoke to entrepreneur and owner of Wyebrook Farm, Dean Carlson, about the story behind the sustainable farm and restaurant, and about the way farming is done - and can be done in the future. Wyebrook Farm provides an alternative to the industrial food supply by creating a diverse polyculture on the farm. This provides the farm with healthy animals and great food without any use of artificial fertilizers, pesticides, herbicides, hormones or antibiotics. 16 Tell us the story behind initiating, and opening Wyebrook Farm. SACC-PHILADELPHIA business at Dean Carlson found his way to Wyebrook Farm and sustainable farming, by way of Wall Street, about 15 years ago. He then saw farmland as a great investment. There were however problems with the way farming was being done, according to Dean, where farmers were reliant on cheap fossil fuels. - Michael Pollen’s great book Omnivores Dilemma opened his eyes to the possibility of sustainable farming. I decided to purchase a farm and start implementing sustainable methods. I found Wyebrook Farm in 2009 during the depths of the housing recession. It was the perfect timing because the farm had been slated for development but had fallen into foreclosure. At that time, I was the only bidder for a large piece of farmland. The purchase closed in March of 2010 and Dean spent two full years restoring the buildings and setting up the farm, and the retail business opened in April of 2012. The purchase in 2009 was only the beginning of a long yet satisfying journey with success and setbacks along the way. What has kept you going? - I just believed that I had to do it. I was even ok with the idea of failure because I felt like it was something I had to do. There are of course setbacks and failures along the way but because there wasn’t really an established model for how to do this, I have always tried to be flexible and figure out how to make it work. The other important thing was to have a lot of patience. It has taken three to four years now to see it start to work. During a 2014 TED talk on Why Sustainable Farming Matters, Dean explains that we have to find alternate ways to grow food without the use of fossil fuel due to the issue of exponential growth. Will the problem of understanding “exponential growth in a finite world” ever change? Can we ever understand that one day we will not have enough room or enough food? - The problem of exponential growth will never go away. It is really more a predicament than a problem. A problem can be solved; a predicament can only be managed in the best way possible. It is simple math, we have to learn how to live with less, or the outcome will be forced onto us. The hope is for communities to unite behind an idea, which will not lead us down a tragic path with lack of food and increased health problems. On a global level these attitudes and ideas have settled in some communities more than others. Dean argues that there are signs of this in for example Europe. - It would be nice if Americans would embrace these ideas but so far they don’t seem to. We are rich enough to live with so much less! Ultimately, change will be forced onto us through crisis but I hope we can avoid that. ”With human population increasing, and agricultural activity flattening out, there is only one direction food prices can go and that’s higher.”- Dean Carlson, TED Talk 2012 How will sustainable farming develop when there is no real profit in the work? What will need to happen before sustainable farming will become the norm? - I truly believe that this type of farming will be the cheapest option in the future. The cost of food now is artificially low today. It is held down by the magic of using fossil fuels to produce food. They are cheap and abundant at the moment but will not be forever. We have simply figured out a way to incorporate oil into our food supply. In the US we use 10 calorie of fuel for every calorie of food we produce. The other issue is that food today looks cheap at the supermarket but the real cost