From Brattleboro, Vermont, Brian Titus served in the United States Army for just under five years. He was an Infantry Mortarman in the 10th Mountain Division in the first Brigade, second of the 22nd Infantry.
“I had made my mind up since I was a kid that I wanted to become a soldier,” said Titus.
Two days post separation from the army, Brian began studying engineering at Penn State University. While there for almost three years, he realized that this was not the path that would lead him to his desired lifestyle.
“I stopped thinking about what kind of job I wanted to have, and I started thinking about what I actually wanted my lifestyle to be,” Titus said. “And the only thing that fit my ideal lifestyle was farming.”
For Brian, working from home, creating his own schedule and becoming financially and food self-sufficient were all elements of farming that influenced him to change his career. Although he did not grow up on a farm, Brian always had an interest in farming but did not have the assets or background to start one of his own.
“As soon as I learned about how the majority of our food is produced and how the big three ingredients; corn, potatoes and sugar are primarily made, I was disgusted,” said Titus.
Once he learned about the Organic Farming Certificate Program from an acquaintance currently enrolled, Brian was inspired to pursue organic agriculture as a career to provide for himself and his family. He applied to the program and began his journey as a future organic farmer in the industry.
With a passion for science, Brian enjoys the combination of in-depth classroom work along with the outside work that the OFCP provides. This program will give him the knowledge and experience necessary to start a small-scale organic farm or work for an organic operation.
Brian’s mission during the OFCP is to discover which areas of agriculture he wants to focus his career on. His experience with the OFCP has exposed him to many different areas of farming such as vegetable production, pastured animals, composting, soil biology, beekeeping and various production techniques (like tillage, direct seeding, plastic mulch installation and weed management).
“Through all of my education in the military, I really learned how to plan backwards from the date things need to be done, analyzing every task and how much time it realistically takes to do, and actually getting a plan together,” said Titus.
His goal in the OFCP is to learn how to organize his plan for his yearly production with bees, vegetables, orchard and pastured animals and also understand how to facilitate his plan.
Upon completing the OFCP, his short-term goal is to develop a small scale pastured animal operation, orchard and vegetable production with the farmland he recently secured in Bechtelsville, Pennsylvania.
In Bechtelsville, Brian currently manages his quarter acre vegetable plot that contains assorted vegetables and is protected with deer fencing. Most of his time is spent determining infrastructural improvements and figuring out what will work best on certain areas of the farm. Deer pressure and poorly draining soil are some of the conditions he is working on resolving.
A typical day on the farm starts off with Brian waking up and tending to the chickens first. Afterwards, he ventures out into the fields and determines which crops are ready to be harvested for that day. The crops in his vegetable production include broccoli, tomatoes, cucumbers, Jerusalem artichokes, lettuce, kale and Brussel sprouts.
“It’s pretty intensively managed, just about every area in it that can be used is being used,” said Titus.
He has already begun building relationships with local businesses to sell some of his produce. To improve his profitability, Brian is working on refining his bookkeeping techniques in preparation for evaluating his data during the month of August.
Brian also has a flock of 50 free range, organic pastured chickens with 25 chicks on the way. Most of the eggs are sold to friends and family. Next year, he plans to expand his layer flock to about 200 chickens to increase production level.
“The OFCP has pretty much taught me everything I need to do to manage my farm. My education through this program has shown me what the day-to-day operations actually need to be,” said Titus. “I basically emulate everything I have learned up there, here.”
In the future, Brian plans to expand his farm operation in Bechtelsville or relocate up north and incorporate bees as an integral part of his business. He wants to open his own farm stand or permanent store that offers primarily fruit, meat, eggs, honey and flowers. As he continues organic agriculture as a career, his lifelong goal is to gain complete financial and food independence on his own property.
This is a guest post by Communications Intern Amanda Bialek.