Grown Here at Home: Roanoke urban farmer says land access is a challenge for new farmers

Published: Jun. 6, 2022 at 6:49 AM EDT
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ROANOKE, Va. (WDBJ) - As more farmers across the U.S. are retiring, a new generation is emerging. Cam Terry moved from Colorado to Virginia in 2017 to start an urban farming business. He didn’t start his career as a farmer, he worked in film production. But after making a film about a farmer, he was inspired to start gardening himself. Now he owns Garden Variety Harvests.

“I’m really encouraged by the number of young and aspiring young farmers that I meet,” Terry said.

Cam explained land access is one of the main challenges for beginning farmers, but it’s a hurdle he says can be overcome with a little creativity.

“I don’t believe that a farmer necessarily has to own the land that they farm on. They just need to be guaranteed that they can’t be kicked off of it,” He said.

Cam started his business on small parcels of land in his neighbors’ backyards.

“I pay my rent in vegetables to those people. And the reason I started the business in that way is I couldn’t afford to buy a piece of land to start a vegetable farm. I figured this was a low-cost way to break into the industry.”

Cam said he was willing to navigate his business in this way until a greater opportunity came around. Now he’s able to farm on Lick Run Farm in Roanoke, which has expanded his farm from about a third of an acre to 3.5. He says another key for any up-and-coming farmer is to grow what you love.

“Take time to make sure that what you’re trying to produce for the community is something that you really believe in, and therefore, will care for as much as you can.”

Cam sells his produce at the Grandin Village Farmers Market.

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