We all start somewhere.

As diverse as we all are, many of us come to a crossroads in life. We realize where we are headed is not where we want to be. Especially in our current climate, it can feel like peak helplessness, only dreaming of ways to create a better future for ourselves and the planet.

If you’re anything like us, it’s been a winding road in getting to who you are today. We all have a story, good, bad and everything in between. Maybe your working in finance or insurance and crave to be part of building something different. Maybe you got caught up in bad environment, which to the outside world, has so far defined who you are.

We all can foster a little bit of regret for not having figured it all out before we spent six figures on college, or got distracted chasing what now seems wholly unimportant.

The thought of being part of the solution was likely was planted seasons ago, like a seed dormant over winter, it’s now finding the urge to reach for daylight, breaking through the crusted soil. Personally and professionally, for many of us who have been through it, the feeling can become so intense, we feel like it’s no longer a choice and we have to act.

The feeling can come from anywhere; a wake up from a doctor’s visit, an education on the effects of large monoculture farms, or simply maturing as a person and learning what you don’t like doing. However it starts for you, who you want to become in the next chapter of your life is a question that you can start asking today.

The ledge you may find yourself may seem it only has two sides; one is abyss of the unknown, the other is clear shallow waters of what’s known and comfortable. With families, mortgages or student loans, it doesn’t seem like a good idea to jump right into the deep end of the abyss when deciding to begin something new.

The good news is that the ability to dip your toes into your future in has never been easier, if you take the right approach.

Taking Control

We can self-educate online, getting all the tactical advice we can handle from the best teachers in the world, before we make major investments. We succeed at higher rates when information is organized in a clear and concise way. Focus saves us from drowning in a sea of information that might be outdated, impractical or a distraction, which is rife in the world of food and agriculture.

With a ‘step-into-it’ approach, we reduce the risk and the burden a personal and career evolution can have on our relationships and financial commitments.

By getting clarity on what you want for your life, you can create an actionable plan that allows you to move towards it in a way that is thoughtful instead of impulsive. Having a plan is the surest way to know what you need to do next no matter how choppy the waters get.

A New Kind of Urban Farm Education

There is a whole generation of people who left a past life behind to be part of the future of food & agriculture, and with the benefit of hindsight, know how important self-education and clarity are in avoiding a lifetime’s worth of mistakes when getting started.

YouTube videos definitely help us all in some way, but what we eventually realize is what they ultimately offer are an endless universe of possibilities and information to get lost in. There is also often a lack of accreditation or follow up that shows what they present actually worked.

Building a business model off of compelling YouTube videos has been the demise of many businesses before anyone ever made a dime. It can also present so many options, there is a real ‘paralysis by analysis‘ where the only decision becomes no decision.

The increasing opportunities to participate in online communities, self-guided courses, weekend workshops and conferences are getting people started faster, while learning lessons at at cheaper and a more rapid rate than ever before. Social media groups filled with knowledgeable practitioners are sharing tactical knowledge in real time that benefits those that take the time to connect.

But, like all things in life, there is a balanced yin and yang. There is a ton of information which is clumsy put together and hard to digest. There are people who are great at running a business but might be lacking the ability to communicate in a way that is clear and easy to learn from. But at least we have the opportunity to investigate, ask others, and to opt out without having put much on the line when we seek it out online.

The one thing that traditional institutional learning has over learning online is formal accreditation. The perceived stamp of approval from those within an industry that says that if one goes to this institution and takes these classes from these teachers, then you can work for that machine. There are boards, gatekeepers, and pieces of paper for all industries that people can point to and say, “That is what professionals do”. If you want to be an engineer, an architect, dentist, or teacher; the rules have been determined long ago. But even this mindset is dying.

Growing, cooking and food culture as a whole used to be taught family member to family member. And even though this has largely been lost as urban sprawl enveloped our land, the connections made through the internet are filling the void. And with technology moving so fast, many of the best teachers are practitioners and business owners, not professors.

The new form of accreditation is coming from within industry, by those who are leading through their actions and voices. These leaders are unifying to say, “If you have these skills – you have a job here”. “If you were trained by one of our own, we believe your foundation to be strong enough to invest in on the job training, so come work with us”.

While the nod of approval will not guarantee success, it will help the individual starting on their journey begin with confidence.

We can look at Joel Salitin, Elliot Colman, and JM Fortier building teachable systems into books, workshops, and presentations that evolved into learning platforms that have inspired and helped tens of thousands of farmers get started and improve their farms. As more people leave other industries and bring outside perspectives to what’s possible, food and agriculture will continue to morph into a more interesting and diverse market ripe with opportunity.

How fortunate are we to be able to sit in an office and have all of these learning opportunities to choose from? There is no limit to what we can decide to teach ourselves. Your investment in education saves time and money as you decide the design and direction of your career before you quit your job, or open up your wallet to begin purchasing land or equipment.

The ability to educate yourself in a way that fits your current lifestyle, allowing you plenty of time to get clear on your career and life goals. Start small, see success, reinvest, level up, implement and pivot your way to success as you learn.

Self-education is not a new thing to high caliber business executives who regularly consult coaches, attend conferences, read, and network their way to their goals.

You have the opportunity to do the same. Whatever your mission, your unique value to the world of food & agriculture will be amplified by the investment you make in yourself.

We hope you find the courage and the clarity to make your impact. We’re going to have each other to learn from.

If you are looking for community and want help finding clarity and inspiration as to what’s possible for you, come to the Urban Farm Academy. We are sharing our experiences of going from zero formal knowledge in agriculture or culinary arts, yet are building businesses that are part of the hyperlocal future of food.


Nick Burton

Co-Founder & Business Consultant Urban Farm Academy