- Education and Training: farmer to farmer, mentoring, workshop
- Farm Business Management: apprentice/intern training
- Production Systems: agroecosystems, organic agriculture
- Sustainable Communities: community development, partnerships, social networks, urban agriculture
The Growing Growers project builds upon investments by Chatham University’s Bio-Intensive, Regenerative Market Garden (BIRM) Project that was established in 2020. The long term vision of the BIRM Project is a research and action community of practitioners who are brought together with a common purpose of self-determined land stewardship that enhances ecosystem services while supporting sustainable livelihoods. The Growing Growers project is a community engaged, participatory action research project to support farmer livelihoods and well-being, especially those from historically underrepresented or disadvantaged backgrounds in Allegheny County, Pennsylvania. The proposed project addresses two action-research priorities for this farmer-centered group: (1) enhancing opportunities for engaging in discussions of problems of agricultural practice, (2) Supporting aspiring farmers through a co-learning apprenticeship program. The project is guided by a Community of Practice approach to farmer-to-farmer knowledge exchange. Project funds support engagement in developing 4 Community of Practice events hosted in different locations to support accessibility for members and farmers from the centered social identity groups. The partnering farmers in the project will help set the agenda for these events and identify key skills or thematic topics to cover at these sessions. For example, topics may include: integrated pest management, soil health assessments, irrigation efficiency, and enterprise analyses. Additionally, the proposed project supports apprenticeships for aspiring farmers, particularly individuals who identify as women, BIPOC, and LGBTQ+. Growing Growers apprentices will be placed at host farms to support wages for engagement in farm activities that enhance efficiency in intensive production of a variety of specialty crops.
Project objectives from proposal:
The overarching goals of the Growing Growers program are to:
- Deepen relationships between farmers and aspiring farmers from historically under-served and underrepresented demographic groups in Southwestern PA and Allegheny County
- Increase representation and recognition of farmers holding these historically marginalized social identities.
The program aims to achieve these goals through the following objectives:
- Convene 4 Community of Practice meetings centered around problems of practice for women, BIPOC, or LGBTQ+ growers in southwestern PA.
- These meetings will be planned by the 6 core members and partner farmers and organizations and attended by 20 farmers/aspiring farmers
- Develop and implement a 15 week-long Growing Grower apprenticeship program that will place 4 aspiring farmers with host farmers.
- The hosts for the Growing Growers apprenticeship are also core members of the community of practice and Partner Farmers for the project.
The community of practice sessions and the apprenticeship program support diverse farmer well-being through greater social relationships and networks while directly supporting opportunities for farmer-to-farmer knowledge sharing and professional development. Additionally, this project will:
- Identify pressing concerns or barriers for farmers/aspiring farmers
- Describe elements of effective apprenticeship opportunities for the targeted farmers