Growing Farmers Training Program
The Growing Farmers Training Program by Community CROPS continues to improve as it enters its second year. The workshop series set a record for the number of participants, and our incubator farm had more beginning farmers than ever before. The newly-launched farm advisory committee has helped guide the development of the program, and the CROPS CSA has proven to be a valuable market for beginning farmers in and outside of our program. Finally, the resources provided by this grant have improved the quality of instruction in our workshop series as well as the tools available to farmers in southeast Nebraska as they begin small farm businesses.
- 80 new and existing farmers per year will gain increased knowledge and skills in sustainable business management, marketing, and production techniques and systems through workshops and field days.
150 families will purchase Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) shares each year, with produce supplied by participants and the demonstration farm (30% growth from the current size).
10-15 limited-resource producers per year will access land at the CROPS farm to begin their farm business. They will gain skills and experience in organic production, farm management and marketing through field walks, marketing support and one-on-one planning meetings.
Gross earnings from farming of individual beginning, limited-resource producers will be at least $1000 in their first year, at least $4000 in their second year, and third-year farmers will earn at least $6500.
25-35 regional limited-resource producers per year will share stories and knowledge with one another.
Farm Advisory Committee provides consultation on needs and opportunities for project.
Thirty people attended one or more winter workshops in 2012, and fifty people attended one or more summer workshops. This grant was written with the premise that CROPS would have transitioned to a larger incubator farm site. The logistics for that transition fell through, but CROPS did find a new location in 2012 and began moving the training farm in fall 2012. CROPS only had room for eight families to farm at the previous incubator site. That number will increase slightly at the new site, and as additional fields are transitioned into vegetable production, our capacity to serve growers will triple. Because of our land-locked situation, CROPS only increased the CSA to 125 members in 2012. However, CROPS graduates who grow off-site have become an integral part of our CSA program, which will enable us to expand to 160 members in 2013. The farm advisory committee met twice in 2012 for three hours, providing important input on the direction of the program.
Eight farming families, including five beginning farmers (our largest beginning class to date, ran their farm businesses on our training farm in 2012. One family graduated from the training farm at the end of the season, and has since secured a lease with the land owner to stay at the location as CROPS moves to a new site. One former graduate taught a session in the 2012 workshop series on making a sale, marking the first time a graduate had taught a course in the series. Our 125-member CSA was the largest we have had, and prepared us for the jump to 160 members in 2013.
Acquiring the new training farm site is a huge milestone for the project, the result of a year and a half of negotiations with the University of Nebraska. Not only will we be able to eventually triple our capacity for the incubator site, this collaboration will allow us to work more with students, professors and staff, educating them on sustainable growing techniques in a hands-on environment.
The winter Growing Farmers classes are very popular because our presenters are small-scale farmers with practical knowledge, but we have had many requests for more advanced trainings, so we are currently seeking funding to add a component for farmers with two or more years of experience. Though our training is comprehensive, graduates still have questions about how to effectively manage their production, market their produce, and expand their businesses. Several graduates have retaken workshops; this has been valuable for us and for them, but they have repeatedly requested more in-depth workshops that address the needs specific to experienced growers including season extension and alternative marketing venues.
Impacts and Contributions/Outcomes
CROPS purchased over $30,000 worth of vegetables from beginning farmers in 2012. These vegetables went primarily to our CSA, but also went to restaurants, grocery stores, and youth group homes in Lincoln.
Twenty farmers attended seven or more workshops in 2012 and went on to establish farm businesses or otherwise directly engage in agricultural pursuits in 2012. Three of our rural participants were recently featured in local press for their efforts in starting farm businesses in their communities.
Of the eight farming families at our training farm in 2012, all eight are continuing to farm in 2013. Six will continue to farm at our incubator farm, one will stay at our old training farm site, and one moved to a community south of Lincoln, where she has found land to establish her farm business.
Growing Farmers Training Program Manager
1551 S. 2nd Street
Lincoln, NE 68502-1908
Office Phone: 4024749802