Growing Growers for Greater Kansas City: Improving Skills for Sustainable Local Food Production and Marketing

Project Overview

Project Type: Research and Education
Funds awarded in 2003: $100,246.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2006
Region: North Central
State: Kansas
Project Coordinator:
Edward Carey
Kansas State University

Annual Reports


Not commodity specific


  • Education and Training: demonstration, extension, farmer to farmer, mentoring, workshop
  • Farm Business Management: community-supported agriculture, marketing management
  • Sustainable Communities: new business opportunities, urban agriculture, urban/rural integration, employment opportunities


    The Growing Growers Training program was established in 2003 in order to train new market farmers in the Kansas City food shed in organic and sustainable production practices, and to improve the production and marketing skills of existing producers. New farmer training under the program is based on apprenticeships, complemented by reading and monthly workshops during the growing season. Workshops cover a range of core competency areas essential for market farming success and typically include farm tours and instruction by growers and extension or other specialists. Workshops are attended by apprentices, and are also open to a general audience of growers and would-be growers. In addition to regular season workshops, special conferences and workshops are also conducted by Growing Growers to help improve the production and marketing skills of existing producers.

    The program is a collaborative effort of K-State Research and Extension, University of Missouri Extension, the Kansas City Food Circle, and the Kansas Rural Center and is guided by an Advisory Board with producer representation. The part-time Program Manager is also a local market farmer who brings a dynamic and farmer-based perspective to program development and implementation. At program initiation we developed a set of core competencies for market farmers, ranked them by priority, and identified instructional means through which competency would be achieved in each area. Instruction means included hands-on training, one-on-one training with host farmers, workshops, reading, and apprentice-directed activities. A set resource materials (text books and extension bulletins) was identified for trainees, and recommended guidelines and procedures for apprentice and host farm participation in the program were developed. A series of workshops/farm tours for trainees, to run during the production season was developed, and the program’s efforts were publicized through website, listserv, press releases and university extension communication channels.

    During 2004, 2005, and 2006, 41 apprentices successfully or substantially completed apprenticeships on 12 area host farms. As of early 2007, 27 of the apprentices were involved in local agriculture, either as farmers, farm workers, or activists. Total attendance at regular workshops and special conferences and workshop organized by the Growing Growers program was over 1200. Two conferences, the “Selling Local in Kansas City Conference” and the “Feeding Kansas City Conference,” held in 2004 and 2006, aimed at strengthening producer knowledge and opportunities for selling in Kansas City, and resulted in many contacts and opportunities for area producers.

    SARE support for the Growing Growers Training Program is continuing under a Research and Education project, LNC05-253, entitled Growing Growers for Greater Kansas City: Establishing a Permanent Program to Train Farmers in Sustainable Local Food Production and Marketing, which aims to make the program self-sustaining.


    We established the Growing Growers Training Program (Growing Growers), in response to high unmet demand for locally grown produce and a lack of growers working to meet that demand in the Kansas City foodshed. The purpose of the program is to train new, primarily organic growers, in the Kansas City foodshed (roughly defined as locations within a 100 mile radius of Kansas City), and to improve skills of existing growers. Market farming is a profession that requires multiple skills related to production, marketing, and financial management. New farmers need to learn these sets of skills as they enter the field, while established farmers constantly work to improve skills to respond to changing circumstances and new information about sustainable farming practices. The program is based on apprenticeship with area farmers complemented by workshops and conferences open a wider community of growers and would-be growers.

    Project objectives:

    As stated in the project, proposal: “There will be an expected progression of outputs as the project develops, with initial establishment of the project Advisory Committee, and development of an annual plan of training activities with around 20 events including field days, farm tours, classroom trainings and conferences. Training materials related to each training objective will be developed or adapted from available sources. We expect that at least 100 people will participate in program training activities and 15 to 20 individuals will participate consistently with an interest in becoming producers for the Kansas City area by the end of the first year, participating in, and benefiting from the training program. We also expect to have up to six growers participating in a CRAFT-type mentoring/internship program. [CRAFT stands for collaborative regional alliance for farmer training.] Early in the project a website will be developed for dissemination of project news and activities, and a pamphlet will be developed as a means of promoting project awareness.

    During the second year of the project, outputs will be similar to the first year, but we also expect to see an evolution of project activities and the initiation of complementary (non-project-funded) activities related to the long-term outcome of achieving a vital local food system for the Kansas City metropolitan. We anticipate that improvements will be made in training curriculum and in the internship program, with similar overall numbers of trainees to the first year.”

    Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture or SARE.