Advice for Aspiring Farmers - Interview Series
Farmer Profile: Courtney Cohen
What is the name of your farm and what do you produce?
Spore and Seed is a fresh cut flower and mushroom farm located in Baltimore County.
How did you get involved/interested in the agricultural profession?
I grew up gardening and my first job in high school was working at a local nursery. In college I worked for my university's horticulture department and I decided farming was the path I wanted to follow. After graduation I accepted an internship on a flower farm and spent the next 7 years working in the industry. After landing back in Baltimore I took the leap to start my own farm, I've always loved growing things, the physicality of the work and the creativity of daily problem solving involved.
How did you find your land?
We lease our land, and it has worked wonderfully for us. We found it through another farmer.
What do you enjoy most about farming?
My automatic response to this question is always, being outside. I adore seeing the sunrise each day, witnessing the untold daily proceedings of nature, and of course the joys of nurturing something to fruition. But I have also very much come to love being a business owner, this part of farming is newer to me than growing things but it has proven equally empowering and uniquely challenging (HELLO 2020!).
What is the most challenging part of farming?
Time management. For the most part, it's just me running things. I constantly feel pulled in a million different directions, there are always emails that need to be answered, infrastructure that needs tweaking/maintenance, all they daily chores, bookkeeping, social media, planning/ordering for the next 6 months and trying to maintain some semblance of a life. What I know is that no day has ever gone as I planned and to use my TO-DO list as more of a guide and to prioritize whatever unexpected task needs to be done. And also to take time off to recharge, the farm and I are better for it.
What experiences or trainings have helped you to become a better farmer?
Everybody learns differently but for me, hands on experience is how I am able to acquire knowledge. I spent a lot of time working on different farms all of which had varying types of management and growing systems. I have seen what works and what doesn't, tricks and efficiencies, things that you can only glean from people who are doing it. Before I started my farm I also participated in the Future Harvest Beginner Farmer Training Program which was a pivotal experience for me, it really helped answer specific questions and gain clarity on the business side of farming.
What advice would you give to people who aspire to farm or are just beginning their agricultural career?
Tap into the vast network of experienced growers and educational opportunities that exists solely to aid farmers. I have learned so much from my fellow farmers, and from conferences and workshops I've attended. Beyond that, start small, farming is so much more than growing so before you go all in, be sure being a small business owner is for you.
What is your favorite flower?
Oh I dread this question! It changes constantly, but I will give you my solid top 3. Celosia, larkspur and dahlias.