In 2013, Arian Rivera was a livestock apprentice at Stone Barns Center. During that time he herded turkeys and sheep, moved egg-mobiles and broiler huts, and participated in the diversification of our pasture rotation with a new breed of chicken, the Buckeye, and visiting cattle. Six years later, he is still managing livestock and thinking about the whole system every day.
The desire to farm came to Arian in a food justice class at Farm School NYC, a program that educates New York City residents in urban agriculture. “Former USDA director Shirley Sherrod spoke to us about African American economic development and rural land ownership through organized large-scale agriculture projects,” says Arian. “I knew from that day on that I wanted to work in rural agriculture at production scale.”
Since his Stone Barns apprenticeship, Arian has worked as livestock manager at the Queens County Farm Museum and for a purveyor in the Hunts Point Market, a 24-hour wholesale center located in the Bronx, N.Y. This year he landed back in the pasture as shepherd/flock manager at Lowland Farm, in Warwick, N.Y., where he lives on and manages an 80-acre parcel where the sheep graze. He is responsible for maintaining the health of the flock, as well as acquiring, breeding and harvesting, and works with the farm’s cattle and swine on a daily basis.
As part of his role, Arian advises on pasture management, and this is where his passion for integrated systems that mimic nature emerges. “I am starting to integrate cover crops as forage into pasture rotations,” he says, “and I hope to eventually include some field crops and small grains.” These farming practices build soil and increase fertility.
The dream of owning and managing his own farm is even bigger: a diverse, integrated farm operation working on food and social justice, and offering opportunities for people of color to get exposure to diversified, production-scale agriculture. Staying financially afloat is challenging, Arian admits. But with optimism he is currently working on learning as much as he can, and fine-tuning his plans. No matter what, he says farming allows him to “be a part of building something to feed and nurture my children and those that follow.”
A healthy food system calls for regional networks of farmers, like Arian, employing agroecological farming practices and considering the impact of agriculture on the land and on their neighbors. Arian’s commitment to farm diversification and to community service exemplifies the spirit of the next generation of farmers. If we can bolster farmers like him, the future is in good hands.
Originally published September 23, 2016