Lake Superior Chapter SFA Farm Beginnings Program
On March 14, 2008, the Lake Superior Sustainable Farming Association (SFA) hired Cree Bradley as the facilitator for the Lake Superior Farm Beginnings (LSFB) program. Mrs. Bradley, along with two LSFB steering committee members, attended a 3-day Farm Beginnings facilitator training in April hosted by licensor, the Land Stewardship Project (LSP). The facilitator training was a detailed overview of the Farm Beginnings curriculum, principles and objectives of the program, facilitation practice, presenter criteria and troubleshooting advice and tips for the SFA start-up program.
Following the facilitator training, licensor LSP provided a 1-day steering committee training for 12 LSFB steering committee members in May. During this training, LSP detailed Farm Beginnings principles and objectives, the role of the steering committee and program budget needs.
Since May, work activities have included:
• Marketing and promotion of the LSFB program to include the development and dissemination of posters, fact sheets, media releases, graduate profiles, student recruitment materials, application and scholarship materials and an event display.
• Development of the LSFB class outline and schedule to include topics and skills to be addressed such as: whole farm planning, Holistic Management, financial management, business plan writing, marketing, distribution, resources and support networks and business structure.
• Outreach and communication to potential farmer presenters for the winter in-class sessions.
• Outreach and communication with potential and committed LSFB students.
To date, SARE funds have been utilized to pay facilitator salary and training expenses and steering committee stipends and training expenses. Note – Mrs. Bradley will take over budgeting and paperwork for SARE Project Number FNC06-610.
The LSFB program officially begins October 25, 2008 and ends in August 2009. Because LSFB is still in the planning and development stage, specific results in relationship to the objectives and goals of the program are not available. A couple of insights have proved valuable however:
• Student interest is high. With minimal promotion to date, we have 14 serious prospective students and a list of interested individuals that have been collected over the last two years (participation goal is 20 students).
• Farmer presenter interest is high. To date, the farmers with whom Mrs. Bradley has spoken to feel that the topics and scope of the LSFB program is the right course of education and training for beginnings farmers. Farmers have mentioned that they like the emphasis on business planning and enterprise development, coupled with low-cost sustainable farming methods. Farmer presenters have made comments such as, “Sure I’ll help…anything I can do to help this program”.
• Outreach to potential farmer presenters should occur in the winter / early spring. Since much of the farming community is particularly busy during the late spring, summer and fall months, it would be more efficient to connect with farmers during the off-season.
WORK PLAN FOR 2008 and 2009
During the summer and early fall, Mrs. Bradley and SFA will continue to promote the LSFB program and recruit students. In addition, a couple of fundraising and promotional activities will occur to include a Farm Fest and a film showing. Ongoing planning and development of the program (in-class sessions, on-farm tours, and on-farm skill sessions) and securing qualified farmer presenters will happen during the summer of 2008 and will continue until the course is complete in August 2009. Beginning October 25, 2008, the first LSFB class will be held at Fond du Lac Tribal and Community College. Classes will continue every two weeks through March 2009. Up to 12 on-farm tours and skill sessions will begin in April 2009 and will continue through August 2009.
To date, the Land Stewardship Project has been kept updated on the development of the LSFB program. Program information has been shared through the SFA newsletter, SFA website, University of MN and WI Extension Services’ quarterly newsletters and offices, informational posters and fact sheets distributed throughout the region and through a display piece used at regional events. In the future, program information as well as program results will be shared though these same resources.
In addition, profiles have been written on regional beginning farmers who have graduated from the Farm Beginnings course (taken in southern MN through Land Stewardship Project) and have been distributed with the recruitment package for the upcoming LSFB course. These profiles prove valuable as they are real life stories of beginning farmers who are making their businesses work through skills developed in the Farm Beginnings program. In the future, SFA will continue to be a resource to LSFB graduates and will document graduate stories as they begin their farming ventures.
Up to 12 on-farm tours and skill sessions will be planned for graduates beginning in April 2009 and ending in August 2009. While many of these on-farm sessions will be attended specifically by LSFB graduates, a few will be open to the wider regional farming community. It is a good opportunity for SFA to expand the scope of people with whom educational information is shared and a good opportunity to inform additional people within the farming community that a training program is available for beginning farmers.
Specific to attendance numbers, evaluations and results of the course – since LSFB classes have not begun, results are not yet available to share.