Growing Growers for Greater Kansas City: Establishing a Permanent Program to Train Farmers in Sustainable, Local Food Production and Marketing

Project Overview

Project Type: Research and Education
Funds awarded in 2005: $105,027.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2009
Region: North Central
State: Kansas
Project Coordinator:
Edward Carey
Kansas State University

Annual Reports


Not commodity specific


  • Education and Training: extension, networking, workshop
  • Sustainable Communities: employment opportunities


    The Growing Growers Training Program is a collaborative effort to train new sustainable and organic market farmers to serve the Kansas City food shed, and to improve the skills of current producers. The program, based on apprenticeships complemented by workshops to teach core competencies, was established under a SARE grant, NCR03-238 in 2003. Growing Growers continued under this second SARE grant, with an explicit objective of becoming self-sustaining during the funding period from 2006 to 2008. This project trained 34 apprentices on 15 host farms, and conducted 27 workshops and a major conference. In addition to apprentices and host farmers, at least 200 producers and would-be producers benefitted from Growing Growers workshops and conferences during the project period. Outcomes of the program include new market farmers contributing to sustainable food production in the Kansas City food shed and elsewhere, improved skills of existing growers, and a new farmer training effort that continues to respond to demand and opportunities for training new producers to serve the demand for sustainably and locally grown produce in Kansas City. Progress was also made toward making the program self-supporting.


    The Growing Growers Training Program was established in response to high unmet demand for locally grown produce and a lack of growers working to meet that demand in the Kansas City food shed. The purpose of the program is to train new, primarily organic growers, in the Kansas City food shed (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. Individuals without a background in agriculture may find information of these skill sets difficult to access. Established growers constantly work to improve skills to respond to changing circumstances and new information about sustainable farming practices.

    Grower-directed learning and networking is a central part of the program, as is partnership/linkage with extension specialists and others with technical knowledge of core competencies for successful market farming. Workshops often include a presentation by an extension specialist and a grower and are followed by a farm tour. The apprenticeship program is a way for experienced growers to train prospective growers and provides apprentices with an access point to agricultural knowledge that is often difficult for individuals without an agricultural background to find.

    During the grant period, from 2006 through 2008, Growing Growers hosted 27 workshops, a multi-session business planning class for new and current growers, and a conference, “Feeding Kansas City”, that brought together 224 growers, restaurateurs, extension professionals and others. Thirty four Growing Growers apprentices completed the program during that time, apprenticing on 15 different host farms. As of early 2009, more than four hundred participants in our email listserv share information on all aspects of local food production and marketing.

    Many individuals who have completed the apprenticeship or business planning program have gone on to start their own farms or other businesses supporting local food production, and former apprentices often refer others to the program. Steady participation in both the workshop series and apprenticeship program and a willingness by participants to pay registration or tuition fees, indicate that the program is providing a useful service and is on its way to becoming partially self-sustaining. However there is a continued need for creativity in funding the position of program coordinator while also keeping program costs affordable to trainees.

    Project objectives:

    Short-term outcomes include measurable numbers of:
    1) Future producers participating in the project’s apprenticeship program;
    2) Past apprentices in the early stages of establishing their own farm operations to produce for the Kansas City market;
    3) Existing producers improving the viability of their operations using sustainable production and marketing techniques learned under the project.

    Intermediate outcomes include measurable numbers of producers satisfying demand for locally grown farm products in the KC metro area. This will be reflected in increasing volumes of products reaching consumers through various marketing channels. Intermediate outcomes will also include a diversified and stable base of funders and income sources for the Training Program.

    Beneficiaries will primarily include growers (who will have profitable farms), businesses (restaurants and markets) involved in meeting consumer demand for local farm products, and area consumers who will have increased availability of high quality, local farm products. Specifically we had the following outputs in our proposal.
    •First Year Apprentices (annual): 10-15 per year on 7-10 farms.
    •Second Year Apprentices (annual): 2-5 per year on 2-5 farms.
    •Mentors (beginning in 2006), we will offer mentors to 2-5 past apprentices in the first 3 years of setting up their own operations.
    •Farm Transitions (by year five) work with 2-4 retiring farmers.
    •Workshops (annual): 10 Beginning Farmer Workshops; 3-6 Advanced.
    •Workshops for Asian, Latino, and urban farmers (over grant period): Organize 3-7 workshops and activities specifically geared to supporting and developing these new farmers.
    •Farm Tours: 3-5 farm tours per year.
    •Listserv and website: The KC Growers Listserv and will continue to expand and develop.
    •Documentation (ongoing). For broader dissemination of methods used and lessons learned by the Program.

    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.