When Townsend Carmody wanted to start riding horses at the age of five, her dad introduced her to the possibility that she could make a living out of doing so – by becoming a farmer.
She’s grown up near farms her whole life. For her first job in high school she worked at Miles Smith Farm in Loudon. After college she worked at Brookford Farm in Canterbury. Now, the 29-year-old owns her own cow, a Belted Galloway heifer, and is the vice-chair of New Hampshire Young Farmers.
“I’m not sure I was very helpful in shoveling horse poop at five but I did it anyway,” she said. “I was pretty much hooked right there.”
New Hampshire Young Farmers is the young adult division of the state Farm Bureau, focusing on farmers who are ages 16 to 35 years-old. The group members make up a network of like-minded farmers, talk to state legislators about agricultural policy and have access to scholarships and other support.
The group also helps maintain a century long tradition of building a network of farmers in New Hampshire. The history of the Farm Bureau dates back to 1916, when the Federated County Farmers’ Association of New Hampshire was founded in Concord.
This organization was the result of county efforts to show the state legislature that there was enough interest in farming to warrant state funding.
New Hampshire was also ahead of the national trend, as the state federation predated the American Farm Bureau Federation, which was founded in 1919.
For people like Sydney Wilson, farming is a family tradition.
She grew up on a beef cattle farm. Her parents have raised Black Angus for almost 35 years now, she said.
Throughout her childhood she was involved in both 4-H and Future Farmers of America, youth organizations that promote agriculture.
Wilson met many of her friends growing up through these programs. She’d also show cattle at fairs and 4-H shows.
The Young Farmers division of Farm Bureau provides an extended community for farmers who age out of the 4-H network at 18-years-old, she said.
“One of the biggest draws is having an outlet outside of your job, outside of your home life, where you can connect with other farmers that are relatively the same age, that are kind of starting out in life the same way that a lot of our members are,” she said.
For Carmody, Young Farmers provided exactly that – an extended network of friends and a newfound leadership opportunity that she didn’t expect.
“When I first got into farming I wanted just a better way to provide food for my surrounding area,” she said.
It was only when a friend who was a fellow farmer suggested she become more involved in the organization, that she considered becoming the vice-chair.
Now Carmody works alongside Ben Davis, the Young Farmers chair, to lead the group.
Event highlights for Carmody include organizing Thanksgiving baskets with full meals for the community in November and hosting a legislative breakfast where Young Farmers provided feedback on proposed bills.
“It’s kind of the first experience I’ve ever had where I feel like a younger person’s voice is heard in government as well,” she said.
Her involvement in Young Farmers has also pushed her to think about sustainable living, contributing to her community and concrete solutions for the future.
“Anybody who is concerned about where the world is going, where the economy is going, where your food is coming from – if you have any questions about the future, young farmers is the future,” she said. “The future of America is farming. It is definitely crucial to keep Farm Bureau and Young Farmers alive, because it’s the only way agriculture is going to stay alive.”