When I moved to Massachusetts and I introduced myself, I'd say I started my own agriculture consulting firm because I wanted to stay in food and agriculture and this region is not known for it. I met Peter after a year and we started The Grower and The Economist about 9 months later, but I still felt like much of my community was located in other places.
Three years later, I've happily revised my intro. Now, I say I started my own firm because I didn't know what work was being done in the region or how to connect it. In the last six months, I've found amazing people passionate about agriculture, food production, food systems, and food access. And in 2022, I hope to find more.
In November, I attended The Northeast Sustainable Agriculture Working Group (NESAWG) virtual conference. Not only did I attend the conference, but I participated. Through this participation, I met Chris Laughton, the Director of Knowledge Exchange at Farm Credit East. He is also an agricultural economist. After the conference, we had an intro call where I got to meet Chris and learn about Farm Credit East or rather what the New England agricultural landscape really looks like.
Agriculture in the region is diverse. There are $9 billion in assets across the 8 states that Farm Credit East represents. Dairy is the biggest sector and it only accounts for 25% of production value. No other sector accounts for more than 10% of production value. And, it's not just animal agriculture and crop production that are important, but also forestry and aquaculture. This diversity makes Chris' job very interesting and challenging at the same time. He writes reports and provides economic insights for producers in the region and after our brief discussion, he agreed to be a guest on The Grower and The Economist.
This week's episode features guest expert Chris Laughton. He is a grower and an economist all in one. His family owned a greenhouse operation and he majored in horticulture at Cornell University. When his father sold the business, Chris went to work for Farm Credit East and eventually went back for a Master of Science in Applied and Resource Economics from the University of Connecticut.
Chris is also the Program Manager for Farm Credit East's FarmStart: Seed Capital for Startup Farms program. This program has invested in entrepreneurs in agriculture, fishing, and forest products. There have been over 350 graduates in the past 20 years and many of these small businesses are still working today.