Training Beginning Farmers in Crop Production Skills to Build Climate Resilience

Project Overview

Project Type: Partnership
Funds awarded in 2018: $15,000.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2019
Grant Recipient: New Entry Sustainable Farming Project
Region: Northeast
State: Massachusetts
Project Leader:
Jennifer Hashley
Trustees of Tufts College / New Entry Sustainable Farming Project


  • Vegetables: beans, beets, broccoli, cabbages, carrots, cucurbits, eggplant, garlic, greens (leafy), greens (lettuces), onions, peas (culinary), peppers, radishes (culinary), tomatoes


  • Crop Production: conservation tillage, cover crops, crop improvement and selection, cropping systems, crop rotation, double cropping, fertigation, fertilizers, food product quality/safety, greenhouses, high tunnels or hoop houses, intercropping, irrigation, low tunnels, multiple cropping, no-till, nutrient cycling, nutrient management, organic fertilizers, pollinator health, row covers (for season extension), season extension, seed saving, varieties and cultivars, water management
  • Education and Training: demonstration, extension, farmer to farmer, mentoring, networking, technical assistance, workshop
  • Farm Business Management: apprentice/intern training, budgets/cost and returns, business planning, community-supported agriculture, farm-to-restaurant, farmers' markets/farm stands, financial management, labor/employment, new enterprise development, whole farm planning
  • Pest Management: biological control, cultivation, cultural control, disease vectors, economic threshold, field monitoring/scouting, flame, mulches - general, mulching - plastic, physical control, prevention, row covers (for pests), traps, weather monitoring, weed ecology
  • Production Systems: agroecosystems, holistic management, organic agriculture
  • Soil Management: composting, green manures, organic matter, soil analysis, soil chemistry, soil microbiology, soil physics, soil quality/health
  • Sustainable Communities: analysis of personal/family life, local and regional food systems, quality of life, social networks, urban/rural integration

    Proposal abstract:

    Aspiring producers need fundamental crop production knowledge coupled with experiential hands-on farm training to pursue an agricultural career or launch a farm business. Gaining commercial crop production experience can be challenging while supporting a livelihood.  Fewer participants in New Entry’s programming have significant production skills.  Crop production skills help beginning producers prepare crop plans, understand harvest potential, and input financial projections in a business plan. Learning conservation farming skills efficiently minimizes labor for aspiring farmers and farm operators who hire and continually train unskilled workers. This project will develop an accessible Crop Production Course and practicum experience for aspiring producers to gain fundamental sustainable crop production skills and build climate resilience. Hands-on trainings with complementary online educational resources, videos, field trips, and a demonstration plot for practicum hours will prepare 30 producers per year with practical skills and competencies in organic vegetable production from seed to sale.  Particular attention to labor efficiencies and creating video tutorials on efficient production practices will be shared broadly to support regional farm labor training.  Pre-, mid-, and post-season learning assessments will be evaluated and demonstrated competencies tracked in a comprehensive Passport to Farm Skills. Curricula and educational materials will be adapted by at least 10 farm employers for farm worker training programs. All project materials will be posted online and shared broadly through New Entry and partner newsletters, websites, and social media.  New Entry’s pathway to agriculture will be updated to include the new Production Course and will facilitate increased enrollment in trainings.

    Project objectives from proposal:

    New Entry proposes to develop a crop production course to provide farm-based experiential training in sustainable crop production practices to our incoming aspiring farmers who lack prior commercial farming experience.  The training modules, learning plans, hands-on demonstration approaches will be documented and serve as a template for other producers to adapt and modify for hands-on labor training and skill development in basic farm tasks to improve labor training and production skills efficiencies. Project objectives include:

    • Develop a detailed, experientially based replicable curriculum for 9-week Crop Production Course with farmer input;
    • Prepare at least 30 aspiring farmers per year with practical, hands-on experience through the Production Course;
    • Develop demonstration plot production plans and provide aspiring farmers with 100+ hours of practical skills and hands-on training through a demonstration plot;
    • Support at least 15 producers to develop crop production plans and demonstration plot management who will go on to apply for New Entry’s Business Course and Incubator program;
    • Share lesson plans/curricula, demonstration videos, and resources with broader producer network to facilitate on-boarding of unskilled farm workers;
    • Build a learning network and resource library of skills training modules for use by diversified vegetable farms in the region.
    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.