Know your farmer: Meet Jim Eshelman

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Eshelman is the third-generation owner and operator of EIEIO Farms

By Michael L. Whitney

New York lost an estimated 5.91% of its small family-owned farms in a 5-year period from 2012 to 2017. Farming has never been easy, and in today’s society it is becoming even harder, with long hours, little pay and a society rampant with Agricultural illiteracy (not knowing where our food comes from) there is little incentive to start farming on a small scale. Farm to table is quickly becoming a thing of the past. But one young man is doing his part to change that!

I first met Jim Eshelman a year ago at the Alfred Farmers Market where he was vending fresh produce including fresh vegetables, chicken and lamb. Jim is a shy young man who is the owner/operator of EIEIO Farms, a farm started in the 60’s by his grandfather Wallace “Pete” MacDonald, a professor of dairy science at Alfred Ag Tech.  At the ripe old age of 13, Jim would rather produce food than prepare food.

To this end, he currently has a flock of 20 sheep, 50 meat birds, 35 laying hens, and 5 turkeys, and he recently added a dairy cow.  Maintaining a farm of that size would be hard work for an adult let alone a 13-year-old young man. And Jim manages to do all of this work outside of school hours. Jim also maintains a 2000 square foot garden without major machinery, relying primarily on hand tools and a walk-behind tractor. Not only does this young man farm the land but his interests go further than that, Jim is specifically interested in the health of the farm, not only of the individual animals living there, but he also works to rotate pastures because he knows that the health of the soil is the foundation to any healthy food production.

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Working the soil, cleaning the barn, staying up to the middle of the night with lambs, doing daily chores, all these tasks bring fulfillment to Jim.  Jim is a lucky young man, he has found his passion early in life, even Knowing full well how hard a career in production agriculture can be, Jim still loves the process. 

Jim also knows that this job is often undervalued but, it is one of the most fundamentally important tasks that every single person relies on.  Jim would like everyone to “find your farmers, eat good food, and acknowledge the work that brings a meal to your table.”

The world needs more kids like Jim, kids who find enjoyment in hard work and helping society by bringing fresh food to the table, not in video games and the internet.

If you would like to know more about Jim, you can find him every Sunday throughout the summer vending fresh produce at the Alfred Farmers Market!

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