It is not just feeding our families

This year CSANR sponsored registration for several WSU students to attend the Tilth Conference.  We will post reflections written by the students over the next several weeks. Please feel free to comment and give these students your feedback.

Esther Rugoli head shot
Esther Rugoli

My name is Esther Rugoli, and I am in my second year in Agriculture Biotechnology at Washington State University. It was my first time to hear about The Tilth Conference, and it was such great chance to attend in Vancouver, Washington.

I am from the Rwanda, and most farmers in my country grow food to feed their families and they are left with little or none to sell. Now the number of commercial farmers is increasing, but there is still the problem of food insecurity in my country. I always think of agriculture in a business-based manner because in the future I want to see my country growing more food at a commercial scale. Before I attended The Tilth Conference, I was less informed and thought organic farming was all about growing few crops for food with your family. I could not think of a farmer growing organic food and still producing enough to put on a large market.

The Tilth Conference gave me the chance to meet professionals and farmers to share my interests with as I learn from them as well. The 2017 Tilth Conference focused on the latest research on sustainable agriculture, business skills needed for the farm to be successful, and the need for these things to occur simultaneously in order to get a better local food system in the Pacific Northwest.

The presentation I enjoyed the most was by Paul McClellan. The presentation was titled “Realistic and Useful Business Planning for Building Capacity and Growth.” His presentation marked in my mind, and I was delighted to hear about how to make a good business plan on a farm and be able to turn a small farm into a bigger successful farm. Paul said “if you can know the key concepts of business process, you are more likely to have a solid business plan for your farm.” This statement stood out for me because since most people in my community didn’t go to school, I was reminded that It’s my responsibility to bring this knowledge to the farms in my community to help the farmers grow into business-people.

My family does subsistence farming as any other person in my community and I have not heard my Daddy or my neighbors planning to turn our farming into business. I didn’t get chance to spend enough time with people who do business on their farm to ask them how they got started, but it was such pleasure to hear about how I can help my community to start considering turning their farms into a business accordingly. I am excited to spend my next summer in the Rwanda, encouraging farmers in my community to grow food not just for families, but also for selling.

I am grateful for the opportunity I was given to attend such a life changing conference by College of Agricultural, Human, and Natural Resource Sciences (CAHNRS) through sponsorship by Center for Sustaining Agriculture and Natural Resources (CSANR).