Assessing & Planning
|Having caught the farming bug in the summer of ’03, Adam and Laura set out to gain more hands-on experience. Much of their knowledge came from working at Gardens of Eagan over the next few years. They learned about all aspects of large-scale organic vegetable production, including soil health, fertility, pest management, and cover crops. They also saw all phases of production, from seeding to post-harvest handling. As Table 1 shows, they also worked at other types of farms in different locations in order to acquire a variety of skills and perspectives.
If We Knew Then What We Know Now…
Adam and Laura place a high value on the training they received by working on a variety of farms. It allowed them to see different crops and scales of farming and to combine favorite practices into their own operation. If they could change one thing about the course of their farm career, however, it would be to spend even more time working on other farms before starting their own. Although they are glad they didn’t pass up the opportunity to start farming on rented land (Figure 2), they feel 4-5 years of working on vegetable farms would have made their first seasons in business much easier.
|Figure 2: Adam and Laura took up Gardens of Eagan on the offer to rent land, where they are shown walking in August 2005.|
|Educator’s Perspective: Resource Tip
The Land Stewardship Project’s Farm Beginnings is a farmer-led educational training and support program designed to help people who want to evaluate and plan their farm enterprise.1
MISA2 maintains a list of internship opportunities with farms and related organizations in Minnesota and beyond.
ATTRA has a directory of on-the-job learning opportunities in sustainable and organic agriculture in the U.S. and Canada. Farmers and interns/apprentices can connect by searching for opportunities by state.
The MOSES3 Farmer-to-Farmer Mentoring Program pairs experienced organic farmers with transitioning organic farmers to promote the successful adoption of organic methods through one-on-one interaction.
Some training programs are designed to serve as “incubator programs” and may be targeted to specific audiences. The Minnesota Food Association, for example, provides small learning plots through its Immigrant Agriculture Training Program at Wilder Forest.
1The Farm Beginnings courses led by LSP are offered in the Upper Midwest. Links to Farm Beginnings programs in other regions are on the MSU Beginning Farmers Training Programs page.