Draft Animal Power – Draft animals and sustainable land stewardship › Forums › Community of Interest › Education › Student loan debt relief
- January 19, 2015 at 12:12 pm #84645dominiquer60Moderator
The National Young Farmers Coalition has started a new campaign to help students that want to become farmers. Read more here:
I am bringing this up for friendly debate because this topic is about something that I experienced and over came first hand. I feel there is a real need for new good farmers of any age. I think I wouldn’t mind some form of assistance or debt forgiveness if these students that want to farm were not presented as almost victim like. Plus there is that fact that some stories are presented as “here are these smart young folks that CAN’T be farmers because they took on debt to learn how to farm.” Why can’t they be farmers? Because they need to work off their debt first, sometimes we can’t always get what we want when we want it. I wanted a farm when I was 5, but I had to wait. I had to pinch pennies by livng in a closet in cooperative housing and hold a job or 2 while I lessened the debt that I took on in college. Then I worked hard at learning more about farming working on farms and learning more about what exactly I wanted to farm, I also had my own business, made some decent money to pay off my loans and save up to start my farm. This in no way makes me special or unique, but it does make me thrifty, determined and aware of what I needed to succeed long before I filed my first Schedule F.
Though we need more farmers, I feel like giving them an education is like giving a man a fish. There is so much more to learn in the struggle to get where you want to go. The subtle little things, the ups an downs, the will to make it work, and that is something an institutional education cannot teach.
Are there any other opinions on this topic?
ErikaJanuary 19, 2015 at 2:01 pm #84648Livewater FarmParticipant
education thru an institution or real life experience is expensive
when it comes to getting into farming an individual needs to make the commitment and except the sacrifices needed to make in order for the dream to come true
in this world of instant gratification I wonder if the would be farmers are willing to wait for the end results of all the work and sacrifice
so many want to purchase the perfect farm or team of horses not realizing the farm is built or the team is worked to get to the point where they have the realization of the dream
as far as financing that dream or education work .work work as you have Erica
nothing is handed to most of us and earning it is far more satisfying
BillJanuary 19, 2015 at 5:50 pm #84651WamooParticipant
I’ve known I wanted to be a farmer growing up… But at 17, I joined the U.S. Coast Guard. It was only suppose to be for 4 years… That was 15 years ago. Right now, I have 5 years until I retire at 37… Which is when I plan to become a full time farmer. Do I wish I could be full time farming right now? You bet I do! But, in reality, I do need these next 5 years.
I have used my military education benefits to get a Certificate In Dairy Sciences from the University of Illinois, and my wife used her G.I. Bill to get a Certificate in Organic Agriculture from Washington State University. No cost to either of us.
We bought our “farm” in 2010, 40 acres in Northeast Washington State with nothing on it… Initially owner financed, but later refinanced by Northwest Farm Credit Services for a lower interest rate.
Every year, we do more to improve it, paying as we go… First we put in a driveway, then later a well. Next we got power run and built a shop/machine shed, and last year we put up nearly a mile of fence. In 2013 we got our land certified Organic.
We also have managed to pick up equipment along the way, again, paying as we go… First a Farmall Cub tractor with a plethora of implements, and McD #9 mower, a John Deere hay loader, an IH side delivery rake, and a David Bradley wagon gear. Of course, I can’t forget our faithful farm truck, a 1996 Ford F-150 extend cab, long bed 4×4.
In 2015, we have plans to build a pump house and install an electric well pump (currently we pump with a vintage Aermotor windmill). By the time I retire, we want to have the house and dairy built, and be ready to full time farm time.
In closing, I just want to say we’ve worked really hard at getting where we are at. The only debt we have is the initial land purchase (which really isn’t that bad). Nothing has been handed to us. If people want to farm bad enough, they will find a way. Like I said in the beginning, I’d love to full time farm right now… but we, and the farm, need the time.
I also want to say that although the formal agricultural education that has been afforded to us has been helpful, most of our knowledge has come from studying on our own and volunteering on others farms.January 19, 2015 at 9:51 pm #84653Donn HewesKeymaster
This is such a tough issue. Unfortunately someone felt that taking these loans in the first place was a good idea. If your original plan was to become a farmer I would not have recommended expensive college loans. Helping young farmers find access to affordable land or situations seems to address some of the same questions. I am also more interested in how some one chooses to farm than if they farm. In other word’s; why should I support the teaching of things I don’t agree with (land grant, fossil fuel farming) while I also offer an education in another form of farming. Local, small scale, grass based, draft animal powered agriculture.
I feel bad for folks with high student loans. I think they make all choices more difficult. I wouldn’t recommend they take the loans. I fully realize I have had many advantages in life and was fortunate to find work with out any college education. I respect anyone (college loans or no) working to get a head. I do think these are tough challenges.January 19, 2015 at 10:02 pm #84655Kevin CunninghamParticipant
I think a debt assistance or forgiveness would be a good thing…. but I must admit that I stopped getting emails from the Young Farmers Coalition because I didn’t like the rhetoric. We are dealing with this issue because my wife has some outstanding loans, but they are modest and we hope to have them paid down this year. I have worked hard but I can’t say that I pulled up my boot straps in a vacuum, does that make sense? I think getting help, financial, or otherwise is a good thing as long as it makes you work harder towards your goal. Basically I don’t want students bailing on their loans by calling themselves a farmer and then not giving it their all. And honestly you can’t regulate that kinda of gumption. It’s a hard call I support the idea of helping promote young farmers but I would rather give them the skills needed to make a go at this incredibly rewarding but hard path we call farming.January 20, 2015 at 2:25 pm #84658Ed ThayerParticipant
Interesting topic, I think this is a complicated issue and do sympathize with struggling beginning farmers. With today’s economic woes and other external forces (high prices for agricultural land), beginning farmers have more of a challenge in front of them than a generation ago did.
I also believe in working for what you want, but would caution us as a community to look at someone who inherited a farm or other ag enterprise as someone who was given something for nothing. Generational farming is becoming a thing of the past but has a strong tradition in our agrarian history.
It is important to provide opportunities for young farmers wherever possible. Many on this site can relate to the struggles of affording an education. Working in a related field or elsewhere while paying for an education is common and necessary. I think it is valuable to understand the complexities of trying to provide a free education while balancing the need to achieve one.
I am a 5 generation owner, farmer and was basically given the property and buildings my ancestors used in the past. While most needed restoration, the land was ready to till and farm. I viewed this as the most important part of the property. I could not be where I am now without this gift.
A young farmer working at a CSA as an employee is going to be hard pressed to save a bunch of money for a down payment on a farm or even make college tuition payments. But that experience coupled with drive and willingness to farm should open doors and opportunities for those willing to work at it.January 20, 2015 at 3:05 pm #84660AnthonyParticipant
I too have not taken well to this campaign, especially the way it is being framed. I paid for the time I was in college, though I didn’t finish as I exited just as I was going to need to begin taking out loans and began working on farms. I have empathy for people with debt, especially so large. To widen the picture, what of other types of debt that one might have to take on to begin a career, or that life may bring along with hardships to work through such as medical and therapeutic needs that can be costly. If I want to begin a restaurant, a hospital or medical clinic, an art program, a school, a care facility for the elderly, should I be relieved of my debts? I think the program in general is looking for special treatment for only some people, while the issue is much larger and complex.
Important to note is that this is looking specifically at the Public Service Loan Forgiveness program of the US Government, that only applies to loans through certain government programs. It requires Income based Payments over a period of 10 years. So it is not just wiping out a loan, as it might seem at the first read for those unfamiliar with the program. Besides government jobs, it also includes people who work for a non profit. See here: https://studentaid.ed.gov/repay-loans/forgiveness-cancellation/charts/public-service
While enrollment in the federal program will help those with such debt, I feel there are other deserving and underrepresented issues in the realm of education to address such as freeing all education from state/government as well as business involvement and influence for both public and private institutions. Are there ways to divest from these institutions to free education and encourage new ways of learning and training? This is what I would like to see most.
Just like taking on the loans, paying them is the individual’s responsibility to work out with whoeever has given them the opportunity to participate in the education they have chosen. I agree with Erika that the entire process is a learning opportunity in itself, and ‘forgiveness’ needs to be looked at every carefully. Education and self development are not meant to be easy.
What if an individual took their own initiative to find a way to work out a program with their loan? Instead we are looking for something so that we do not have to take personal responsibility for our actions. Loan repayment, or finding a creative solution oneself, may be just what an individual needs to personally develop. Perhaps their community or an individual will see a great need for their skill and help with their loans, or help them with beginning a business or enterprise. Maybe they would need to further educate themselves, or tailor and reframe their enterprise and relationships so that the community is wholly invested and supportive.
Another part to comment on is the segregation of certain jobs being public service and others not. Whether one personally takes this view or not, the truth is that everything we do or produce is a service for the whole of humanity, our common furtherance and evolution on and with the earth. Some of us take it up consciously and well within this larger view, while others take on a smaller view and attempt to keep more for themselves. Even the ‘greedy’ are still serving, just not as much, as well, or in the way we might think they should with a view to a larger whole. There are even ‘greedy’ farmers! So why should a farmer be considered a public servant and not an artist? Or someone who makes clothing, builds homes, cares for children (the ‘unemployed’ mothers and fathers even, staying home to raise the next generation), teachers, etc. Should we decide what kind of farmers will be forgiven? Only organic? Only Biodynamic? Only those integrating animal power onto their farms? 😉
Educating the public on the nature of farming to bring them to personal involvement is key here. A doctor may take on enourmous debt to educate themselves, but this is mostly recognized and rightly valued and compensated. How can we foster knowledge and culture so that our work and our needs are valued? Can we find ways to ask a ‘true price’ for our work based on common understanding and not ‘sell ourselves short’, and therefore the earth and the rest of humanity of proper care? This does not just apply to doctors or farmers, but to each individual. Their work is worthy, their life is worthy, the earth is worthy of proper care and respect. Attempting to switch around rules at a ‘higher’ government level forgets or misses the actual higher level of respect. I believe change must come through the hearts and minds of human beings coming together. Here begins our true work.
January 21, 2015 at 11:03 am #84664JaredWoodcockParticipant
- This reply was modified 5 years ago by Anthony.
I have a college education through a masters, and I had to take out loans and pay for everything myself. As much as it sounds nice to wipe away my debt I don’t think this is a good idea.
Farming is like any other small business and it should be subject to the same economic pressures. For the people that have a hard work ethic and a strong desire they will figure out how to make it work. College debt is just another personal piece of the pie.January 22, 2015 at 12:19 am #84670Peacework FarmParticipant
If we look it at from another viewpoint: Take NY state. Someone in the NY state gov. thinks that small farms are an important part of the future. So they say ‘How do we encourage more small farms?’ and they take advantage of a wide sweeping trend of young people who would like to farm as a career. Many did not grow up on farms, and many went to college. So by offering an economic incentive, NY state is going to see (in theory) an increase in the number of small farms started here. Right now its limited funding and super competitive, which is a good thing.
If this move to ‘forgive’ student loans ultimately increases the number of small farms in the country, then kudos.
from the epa.gov :
There are over 313,000,000 people living in the United States. Of that population, less than 1% claim farming as an occupation (and about 2% actually live on farms). In 2007, only 45% of farmers claimed farming as their principal occupation and a similar number of farmers claiming some other principal occupation. The number of farms in the U.S. stands at about 2.2 million.
If we need to increase the population of farmers ‘by any means necessary’, then student loan forgiveness is not the worst way to do it.
I would alsoJanuary 22, 2015 at 12:26 am #84671Peacework FarmParticipant
Sorry, posted to soon there.
here are some graphs that show that college tuition isnt what it use to be. An increase of 500 percent since 1990. While regular inflation is only 100 percent.
it is a hard thing to look at that kind of debt and convince yourself you can make a living farming. But we will try anyway…. 🙂January 22, 2015 at 6:32 am #84672Carl RussellModerator
As a disclaimer to my comments, my personal experience was that between Veterans benefits, In-state tuition, grants, and work study, I came out of UVM with a degree and a few dollars in my pocket. I then moved back to land that my family has owned free and clear since 1940.
One of the challenges I see in this discussion is related to value and commerce.
College tuition is out of balance with the potential income from just about any field of study. Using government funds to reduce that cost does not address the fact that institutions have fallen into the trap of vying for commercial market-share.
We also depend on this concept that farming is a business (like any other), and that to be successful one must capitalize and compete for market share.
Food, land use, and education all fall into a complicated mass of social values as well, and by relying on straight line economic theory we have denatured food, destroyed land, and changed education from enlightenment and capability into accreditation.
When the government steps in to relieve debt, we continue to save our consumers from the discussion of the real value of food, land, or education. Moreover we protect the economic interests of financial powers to keep folks chasing the dollar, and incurring debt, which in turn is attached to business ventures, land, and personal endeavors. And watch how the organizers will use accolades from such an initiative to further their own objective to gain market share.
I have more faith as I meet more and more young folks with everything from art history majors to small ag-program experience, and witness the ambition and knowing-ness about their desire to work in the soil, and with animals, that these folks will turn this around.
Sure let the Government forgive a few debts. It will last like every other “good” program. In the end it may confuse the situation for a few people over a few years, but eventually food, and the land it is grown on, and the social wealth of educated citizens will have to reattain the true value they represent to us.
Meanwhile the force of enervated youth on their way to the land is real, and in my mind it will not be made or broken by the existence or absence of a government program.
CarlJanuary 22, 2015 at 9:35 am #84673carl nyParticipant
Just my personal opinion… I don’t think that we should have to pay for someone else to get an education. My two sons worked hard to get scholarships for college. They both have 4yr. degrees. I didn’t pay for anything except that I bought them both a new computer. One came out of college with a $500.00 debt and the other with a $8000.00 debt. I don’t think that’s to bad. The difference is that one son is a real tight-wad and was always looking for more scholarships. I think they should have to earn their education, not have it given to them. Nothing in life is free… JMHO
Carl nyJanuary 22, 2015 at 12:37 pm #84675Rick AlgerParticipant
I like the idea. Anything that helps restore our shrinking middle class is a positive in my opinion.January 22, 2015 at 7:28 pm #84679Brad JohnsonParticipant
Very interesting thread here, and good comments all around. I did nor grow up farming, nor did my folks. They did not leave me any land nor any equipment, but they did teach me to work like hell. For that, they have my everlasting thanks. No matter what you choose to do, work hard and do it well, they said.
I did not even discover farming until I stumbled into an apprenticeship in my mid twenties. By that time, I had a college degree and had learned nothing practical to farming other than how to work hard and learn new skills. Turns out, that is pretty helpful when you start farming and logging with horses. I also had by then more than $37,000 in college debt. My folks also owed a good chunk. I went right to work teaching and then began farming 6 years later. By then I had paid off a good portion of the debt, with no help or forgiveness program. I am not against these types of programs at all, as we all need something given to us to help get started in this life and work revolving around agriculture.
I consider myself extraordinarily lucky with my farm business. First, I have a wife who works full time off the farm. She makes good money and also gets us our health insurance. Also, we had financial help from family to finance our land, in the form of a low interest loan. Finally, we are located in a part of the NE that has a great deal of demand for horse powered logging. Not that this has anything to do with loan forgiveness for educational debt, but my point is that farming and logging are damn hard ways to make a living. We need more young folks getting into this work, and I think these kinds of programs are a good idea, as are apprenticeships, workshops, relationships with older more experienced farmers, family land or equipment, plain old hard work, dumb good luck (whatever it takes to make it possible for more people to get in the game).
-BradJanuary 23, 2015 at 10:58 am #84682KMichelleParticipant
Howbout’ instead of waiting around for the government to ‘forgive’ our debts, we stop paying them? Stop incurring them? Stop supporting institutions and economic regimes that revolve around them… More on this later.
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