Growing Growers for Greater Kansas City: Establishing a Permanent Program to Train Farmers in Sustainable, Local Food Production and Marketing
Fourteen apprentices were accepted into the program with 9 successfully completing the full season of workshops and apprenticeship work on 9 host farms. Additionally, 1 apprentice undertook second year apprentice project involving higher level skill development on her host farm. Through self-assessment, apprentices again indicated improvement in all core competency areas for market farmers, with knowledge gained through multiple workshops, farm tours, one-on-one training and self-directed learning activities implemented.
As in previous years, textbooks and other written resources were provided to apprentices to cover subject matter areas, but in order to help the program become self-sufficient, apprentices were charged to cover the costs of textbooks.
In addition to the apprentices, 72 new or experienced growers were paid registrants at one or more of the nine monthly workshops held during the course of the growing season. The Growing Growers Advisory Board approved plans to charge a course registration fee of $300 per apprentice in 2008 in order to help cover costs of the program.
Short-term outcomes include measurable numbers of:
1) Future producers participating in the project’s apprenticeship program;
2) Past apprentices now 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 agriculture and marketing techniques learned under the project.
Intermediate outcomes will 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 the project 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 www.growinggrower.org will continue to expand and develop.
• Documentation (ongoing). For broader dissemination of methods used and lessons learned by the Program.
2007 marked the second full season of the second phase of SARE funding for the Growing Growers Training Program, which was established in 2003. The core of the program is farmer-directed training in sustainable and organic market gardening, conducted through apprenticeships and complemented by workshops on a series of topics for both new and experienced growers. Project activities were conducted in close consultation with the Advisory Board, made up of representatives of the cooperating institutions, community organizations, and local growers (listed on www.growinggrowers.org). During the reporting period, the project continued to benefit from the services of a dynamic part-time Manager who is also a market farmer in the Kansas City metro area, and who brings a strong vision and energy to project implementation.
The project website (www.growinggrowers.org) continued to serve as an important tool for dissemination of information on apprenticeships and workshops. The Growing Growers listserv (firstname.lastname@example.org), with over 350 members served as an important means of disseminating information on Growing Growers workshops and other educational opportunities of interest to market farmers, and also served as a means of communication among growers, facilitating sales of equipment, etc. Regular press releases and mailings by Kansas State University and University of Missouri partners served to advertise workshops to a wide audience of trainees, ensuring good attendance at workshops and continuing name recognition for the program in association with partner organizations.
During the course of the 2007, the Growing Growers Training program organized 9 regular season workshops (plus beginning and end of season meetings for apprentices). Workshops are briefly described at the foot of this section, along with locations, dates and attendance. Total registration at these training events was 217, with 86 individual trainees. Evaluations of training events were routinely obtained from participants, and were consistently very favorable, but with suggestions for improvement. Feedback from program activities in 2007 was used to continue to refine curriculum and training activities in 2008.
In 2007, 14 apprentices were admitted to the program to work on 10 host farms. Nine of the apprentices completed program requirements, meeting time commitments to host farms, and attending over 80% of training workshops (2 apprentices), between 70% and 80% of the workshops (5 apprentices), or between 60% and 70% of workshops (2 apprentices). Those not completing the program stopped for a range of reasons, including health problems (2), financial problems (1, who still intends to farm), and a realization that farming was not what they wanted to do (2). There was a lower attrition rate than in 2006. It seems likely that the imposition of a registration fee (retained from 2005) and the implementation of a book fee, led to somewhat higher level of commitment to the program by apprentices.
In addition to the first year apprentices discussed in the previous paragraph, there was 1 second-year apprentice involved in the program in 2007. Second year apprenticeships enable first year apprentices to continue at their host farms for a second year, while assuming greater management responsibilities in particular areas, subject to approval by the Growing Growers program manager and the Advisory Board. Second year apprentices are asked to provide a report at the end of the year, as a means of tracking their performance under the program.
As in previous years, apprentice confidence and knowledge of each area of competency was assessed (self-assessment) prior to the initiation of the program, and again at a wrap-up meeting at the end of the season. Apprentices again reported large gains in confidence and competence in all areas by the end of the season (see the 2004 Annual Progress Report of SARE project LNC03-238 to see Annex 5 for assessments, and for a list of core competencies).
Impacts and Contributions/Outcomes
Some project milestones were fully met and exceeded during 2007, while others were not addressed, as discussed below. The broad outcomes of training new producers to be market farmers and assisting established producers to improve their skills were met. Apprentices from previous years started or continued their own farm enterprises, and more express the intention to do so. Short term outcomes including the participation of new producers in the Program, and the improvement of skills by existing farmers continued to be achieved. Intermediate and long term outcomes, specifically increased volumes of local farm products reaching consumers in Kansas City, and a strengthening sustainable local food system are still not fully achieved. However, according to host farmer testimony, having apprentices on their farms has helped to make them better farmers, and a number of the apprentices actually were able to farm during 2007, thus contributing to the projects intermediate and long-term goals. Spring Creek Farm, which was established by a 2005 apprentice of the Growing Growers program is becoming a well-established farm on the local scene, and in 2007, took on an apprentice under the Growing Growers program. The continued success of the “Local Burger,” a restaurant featuring local farm products in Lawrence, KS, by a 2004 program apprentice, was a notable achievement with respect to intermediate and long-term project outcomes during the reporting period. A further contribution by a Growing Growers program apprentice was the establishment of Greenability (http://www.greenabilitymagazine.com/) a magazine dedicated to providing information on “living well by living green in Kansas City.
During 2007 we again did not address the proposed goal of developing a mentorship program. We realized that the we were deficient in knowledge of the competencies required to establish such an effort, and the management of the program – conducting workshops and dealing with administration of reimbursements for one-on-one trainings etc, – occupied most of the program manager’s time leaving insufficient time to develop this effort. Additionally, we did not seriously address the goal of assisting with farm transitions from generation to generation, for reasons similar to those for not establishing a mentorship program. This outcome was addressed, to a degree, in 2007 through the one of the apprentices being the son of a farmer, and doing his apprenticeship on the family farm. Both host farmer and son came diligently to workshops throughout the season, thus addressing in some sense this goal. The follow-up to this effort will be reported in 2008. One additional area not addressed, was to design a workshop catering to an Hispanic, Asian, or other ethnic audience. While efforts had been made to reach out to a Hispanic audience early in the Growing Growers program, we did not identify a clear demand for any such effort. This is not to say that such an effort could not be cultivated, but that the demand is simply not overwhelming, and thus not easily identified and served. The project leader is fluent in Spanish and fairly familiar with demand for specialty crop extension programming in the Kansas City foodshed, and this has simply not emerged as a priority.
Following the completion of another season of the program, we feel encouraged to believe that the Growing Growers training program will continue following its period of establishment under the SARE program. Apprentices increasingly seek out Growing Growers as an established program providing new farmer training in the central Great Plains.
ANNEX 1. Growing Growers Training Program workshop schedule, 2007.
*March 31, 9:00-3:30 Soil Building with Organic Practices, Pickings ‘n Pumpkins, Spring Hill, KS (Attendance, 25)
– The Soil Food Web: Why should a farmer care? Ted Carey, Vegetable Specialist, K-State
– The Basics of Soil: Soil structure, water infiltration, how to read soil tests, home tests to better understand your soil. Rhonda Janke, K-State Research & Extension, Owner, Parideaza Farm, Wamego, KS
– One farmers perspective on soil building. Nancy Kalman, Pickings ‘n Pumpkins.
– Farm Tour, Picking ‘n Pumpkins.
April 16, 2:00 – 3:30. Apprentice Orientation. (Attendance, 12 apprentices)
*Apr 16, 4:00-7:00 General Plant Propagation and Plant Production for Vegetable Growers. Master’s Community Church, Kansas City, KS (Attendance, 23)
– Basic Plant Production, Ted Carey
– Farm Tour, KC Community Farm, Dan Dermitzel & Katherine Kelly will focus on their production planning and seeding/planting schedules.
*May 14, 4:00-7:00, Equipment and Drip Irrigation for Vegetable Growers. Pendleton’s farm and Country Market and K-State Horticulture Research Center. (Attendance, 28)
– Equipment demonstration and farm tour, Pendleton’s Farm and Country Market, Karen and John Pendleton.
– Drip Irrigation for Beginners, Norm Kilmer, Morgan County Seed (courtesy of the Missouri Vegetable Growers Association)
– Equipment demonstration and farm tour, K-State Horticulture Research and Extension Center, Terry Schaplowsky, Farm Manager and Ted Carey, Extension Specialist.
*June 11, 4:00-7:30, Harvesting and Post-Harvest Handling for Maximum Quality and Nutrition Public library and Bear Creek Farm, Osceola, MO. (Attendance, 25)
– Workshop: How you harvest your produce and how you keep it post-harvest can make the difference between vegetables that are nutritious and fresh and vegetables that look tired before you even get them to market. Ted Carey from K-State will talk about when and how to harvest various crops, how to store them, and what are some cooling set-ups that work for smaller scale producers.
– Farm Tour: Robbins and Jim Hale have been growing and selling certified organic produce for the Brookside Farmers Market in Kansas City for a number of years. This year they have expanded their operation and are selling to Whole Foods in Kansas City.
*July 9, 4:00-7:00, The Taste & Nutrition of Local Vegetables Town Hall, Shawnee, KS. (Attendance, 29)
– Workshop: Nutritionist Lisa Markley and chef (and former Growing Growers apprentice) Hilary Brown will talk about the nutritional values of locally grown vegetables and about how the whole point of growing vegetables is eating! They’ll cover what happens to our taste buds when we eat vegetables, how vegetables can be prepared, and how you can develop your farm and your marketing with this end goal of good eating in mind.
– Farm Tour: Kuykendall Farm, Shawnee, KS. The Kuykendall’s have been farming in old town Shawnee for many years.
*August 13, 5:00-7:30, Starting a New Farm, Spring Creek Farm, Baldwin City, KS. (Attendance, 38)
– Grower Panel. Stephanie Thomas, Spring Creek Farm, Jackie Smith and Sarah Hoffman, Green Dirt Farm, Sherri Harvel, Root Deep Urban Farm, Randy Greg, Sweet Rose Farm.
– Farm Tour, Spring Creek Farm.
*September 9,10:00-4:00, Pests, Diseases & Weeds. East Wind Garden (at Drumm Farm), Independence, MO (Attendance, 16)
– Organic and sustainable disease management. Megan Kennelly, Kansas State University Horticultural crops Plant Pathologist
– Organic and sustainable insect pest management. James Quinn, University of Missouri Extension
– Organic and sustainable weed management strategies. Timothy Walters, agronomist and farmer, East Wind Garden.
– Farm Tour, East Wind Gardens
*October 1, 4:00-6:00 Small scale integrated vegetable farming: Horses and Poultry, Karbaumer Farm. Weston, MO (Attendance: 18). Klaus Karbaumer has been farming with horses all his life. He’ll show and talk about his farm operation during this farm tour.
*October 20, 10:00-4:00, Business Management for Small Farms. Kearney Commercial Bank and Fair Share Farm (Attendance, 15).
– Visioning your farm. Katherine Kelly and Ted Carey guide participants the elements of planning your farm.
– Our CSA story. Tom Ruggieri and Rebecca Graf discus the history of Fair Share Farm, sharing details of their business plan and budget.
– Farm Tour, Fair Share Farm.
*Required program for apprentices. Open to a wider audience of growers for a fee.
Kansas City Center for Urban Agriculture
P.O. Box 6043
Kansas City, KS 66106
Office Phone: 9134881270
Kansas City Food Circle
P.O. Box 45195
Kansas City, MO 64171
Office Phone: 9133340556
Univerisity of Missouri Extension
1501 NW Jefferson
Blue Springs, MO 64015
Office Phone: 8162525051
Kansas Rural Center
P.O Box 133
Whiting, KS 66552
Office Phone: 7857480959
Extension Assistant Professor
University of Missouri, Columbia
201 Gentry Hall
Columbia, MO 65211
Office Phone: 5738827463
University of Missouri, Columbia
1-87 Agriculture Building
Columbia, MO 65211
Office Phone: 5738827514