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

2008 Annual Report for LNC05-253

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

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


1n 2008, 14 first year apprentices and 2 second year apprentices were accepted into the apprenticeship program, working or volunteering on 9 host farms. Eleven of the first year apprentices completed a full season of labor, one-on-one training and attended the majority of workshops offered. One second year apprentice completed the planned second year project and continues to work with 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.

In addition to apprentices, 72 other growers, would-be growers and others attended one or more of the nine monthly workshops held during the course of the growing season

The following changes were made to the apprenticeship program requirements:
In order to help cover program costs, each first year apprentice was charged $300 tuition, which included all texts, resources and workshop fees. Two first year apprentices indicated that the tuition would be a barrier to participation, and received “scholarships” exempting them from paying tuition.

The workshop requirement for apprentices was expanded to allow attendance at up to two conferences, workshops or classes offered by other organizations to count towards a total workshop attendance requirement of 8. This encouraged apprentices to network within the farming community, access additional resources, and to pursue interests and focuses not specifically covered by the Growing Growers workshop series.

Objectives/Performance Targets

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 will continue to expand and develop.
• Documentation (ongoing). For broader dissemination of methods used and lessons learned by the Program.


2008 marked the third 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

The project website ( continued to serve as an important tool for dissemination of information on apprenticeships and workshops. New web pages, including one featuring former apprentices and their current contributions to local food, have been added. Presentations and supporting materials from select workshops were also posted on the website as a grower resource. Agreements with other sustainable agriculture training programs to cross post apprenticeship/training opportunities have increased the web presence of the program.

The Growing Growers listserv ([email protected]), with over 400 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 2008 the Growing Growers Training program organized 9 regular season workshops. Workshops are briefly described at the foot of this section, along with locations, dates and attendance. In response to demand from growers, and in partnership with the Kansas Fruit Growers Association, a workshop on sustainable fruit production was included. Total registration at these training events was 181, with 86 individual trainees (including apprentices). Evaluations of training events were obtained from participants, and were consistently favorable, but with suggestions for improvement. Feedback from program activities in 2008 was used to continue to refine curriculum and training activities in 2009.

Of the 14 admitted first year apprentices:
One first year apprentice left the program early in the season (April) to pursue an opportunity out of state.
Of the remaining 13:
13 met their time commitments to their host farm
13 completed at least 8 hours of one-on-one training with their host farmer(s)
6 attended 8 or more workshops
5 attended 6 or 7 workshops
2 attended 4 or 5 workshops

Reasons cited by apprentices for failure to attend workshops included communication problems (failed emails), work and school schedule conflicts, child care conflicts, and fatigue (particularly late in the season). Shifting longer or required workshops to earlier in the season may help address this.

The workshop attendance requirement was changed in 2008 to allow apprentices to count participation in up to two non-Growing Growers educational events (conferences, workshops, presentation, etc.) to count toward the eight workshop requirement. Non-Growing Growers events attended and cited by apprentices included the Great Plains Vegetable Growers Conference, a presentation on local food systems sponsored by the Kansas Rural Center, and a sustainable grazing school held by the Kansas Center for Sustainable Agriculture and Alternative Crops.

Of the two admitted second year apprentices:
One second year apprentice worked with her host farm throughout the 2008 season, helping to investigate whether no-till practices could be successfully used for some crops and starting several on-farm vermicomposting bins to supply her host farm. As an apprentice she could have attended any Growing Growers workshop without charge, but elected not to.

The remaining second year apprentice continues to use her host farmer as a resource for planning a future farm, but neither attended workshops nor completed her planned second year project.

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 the end of the season. While cancellation of the final workshop of the season resulted in fewer completed end of season evaluations than in past years, 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). With some exceptions, the improvement in competency was greater for paid apprentices than for volunteer apprentices.

A high percentage of 2008 apprentices plan to continue participating in sustainable agriculture. As of 2/1/2009, eight apprentices from the 2008 season report they plan on being directly involved in sustainable growing in 2009; 4 as self employed growers, 3 as employees/managers responsible for garden/framework and 1 in an applied training program.

With respect to sustaining the Growing Growers Program beyond the period of SARE funding, we realized that an income stream to cover the costs of coordinating the program is the key element to program continuation. Workshop registration fees and apprentice tuition charges largely cover the costs of running the program. The program’s effectiveness and reputation are such that it has been possible to continue funding the coordinator’s position through new grants.

Impacts and Contributions/Outcomes

Impacts and Contributions/Outcomes (Includes Annex 1 – Description of 2008 workshops.)

Some project milestones were fully met and exceeded during 2008, 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 in the process of being achieved.. The Growing Growers Training Program cannot take credit for this alone, but contributes to these developments. The program has produced new growers, contributed to improving the skills and volumes of host farmers and numerous new and established producers who have attended workshops, and through workshops and the listserv, generally served as an area resource for sustainable market farming,

The continued success of “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. Local Burger promotes and sources locally produced foods from multiple producers, providing a reliable market for producers.

The 2008 transition to wholesale marketing by one of our host farms broadened the scope of marketing knowledge available to our apprentices.

During 2008 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. 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. However, informal mentoring relationships have developed between host farmers and former apprentices, allowing former apprentices who farm, or who are planning to, access to information such as production planning and budgeting systems, business plans and cooperative supply ordering.

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. However, in the 2008 season the son elected to pursue a non-farming career.
One additional area not addressed was to design a workshop catering to a 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. The 2008 tuition did not prove a significant barrier to participation, and an increase in tuition may be feasible. Prospective farmers/growers continue to 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, 2008.

* March 15th, 9:00-3:30 Soil Building with Organic Practices, Missouri Extension Office, Higginsville, MO (Attendance:21)
– The Soil Food Web and Composting 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
-Soil Management at Wood Mood Gardens, .Jim Wood, Wood Mood Gardens.
– Farm Tour, Wood Mood Gardens, 20987 Highway 20, Higginsville, MO 64037

*March 29th, 11:45-1:45 Starting A New Farm, Shawnee Civic Center, Shawnee, KS (Attendance: 11)
– Panel discussion and Q&A session with five farmers who started their operations within the past five years.

April 14, 2:00 – 3:30. Apprentice Orientation. (Attendance, 12 apprentices)

*Apr 14, 4:00-7:00 General Plant Propagation and Plant Production for Vegetable Growers. Master’s Community Church, Kansas City, KS (Attendance, 21)
– 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 5, 4:00-7:00, Equipment and Drip Irrigation for Vegetable Growers.,K-State Horticulture Research Center, Olathe, KS (Attendance, 27)
– Tractor Safety, Terry Schaplowsky, Facilities Manager, K-State Horticulture Research Station.
– 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, Ted Carey, Extension Specialist.

*June 16, 4:30-7:30, Harvesting and Post-Harvest Handling for Maximum Quality and Nutrition, Douglas County Extension Office, Lawrence, KS. Relocated from Osceola, MO due to flooding. (Attendance, 15)
– Food Handling for Quality and Safety, Ted Carey, Extension Specialist
– Farm Tour: Pendleton’s Country Market and Farm, Lawrence, KS 66046

*July 14, 4:00-7:00, The Taste & Nutrition of Local Vegetables, Douglas County Extension Office, Lawrence, KS (Attendance, 24)
– Nutrition of Local Foods, Lisa Markley, nutritionist
– Taste of Local Food and Restaurant Sales, Karen Black, Local Burger.
– Farm Tour: Moon on the Meadow Farm, Lawrence, KS.

*August 17, 10:00-4:30, Pests, Disease and Weeds, Buchanan County Extension Office, St. Joseph, MO (Attendance: 16)
– Organic and sustainable weed management strategies, Tim Walters, agronomist and local grower.
– Insect Pests and Organic Management Options, Raymond Cloyd, K-State Entomologist
– Organic and sustainable disease management, Megan Kennelly, Kansas State University Horticultural crops Plant Pathologist
– Farm Tour, Nature’s Choice Farm, St. Joseph, MO.

September 15, 4:00-7:00 , Sustainable Tree Fruit Production, Homewood Christian Church Annex, Homewood, KS (Attendance: 37)
-.Sustainable Practices for Conventional and Organic Apple Production. Jason McAfee, University of Arkansas,
– Farm Tour, Pome on the Range Orchard, Homewood, KS

*October 19, 10:00-4:00, Business Planning for Small Farms. Kearney Commercial Bank, Kearney, MO (Attendance: 9).
-Values based Business Planning. Katherine Kelly, Kansas City Center for Urban Agriculture and Ted Care, Carey, Extension Specialist
-Fair Share Farm Beginnings. Tom Ruggieri and Rebecca Graf discuss the history of Fair Share Farm, sharing details of their business plan and budget.
– Farm Tour, Fair Share Farm, Kearney, MO

*Required program for apprentices. Open to a wider audience of growers for a fee.


Katherine Kelly

[email protected]
Project Manager
Kansas City Center for Urban Agriculture
P.O. Box 6043
Kansas City, KS 66106
Office Phone: 9134881270
Craig Volland

[email protected]
Kansas City Food Circle
P.O. Box 45195
Kansas City, MO 64171
Office Phone: 9133340556
Lala Kumar

[email protected]
Univerisity of Missouri Extension
1501 NW Jefferson
Blue Springs, MO 64015
Office Phone: 8162525051
Laura Christensen

[email protected]
Program Manager
Kansas State University
35230 W 135th St
Olathe, KS 66061
Office Phone: 9138562335120
Dan Nagengast

[email protected]
Kansas Rural Center
P.O Box 133
Whiting, KS 66552
Office Phone: 7857480959
Mary Hendrickson

[email protected]
Extension Assistant Professor
University of Missouri, Columbia
201 Gentry Hall
Columbia, MO 65211
Office Phone: 5738827463
Jame Quinn

[email protected]
Extenion Associate
University of Missouri, Columbia
1-87 Agriculture Building
Columbia, MO 65211
Office Phone: 5738827514