Farm Beginnings Program Provides a Jump Start to Sustainable
Deborah Cavanaugh-Grant (217) 968 5512; firstname.lastname@example.org,
Contact: Debra Levey Larson, (217) 244-2880; email@example.com
Farm Beginnings is a program for farmers who want to learn more
about low-cost, innovative methods of sustainable farming. And,
for the first time, this farmer training program is available
in Illinois. Applications are now open for the 2005-2006 Farm
Beginnings course, which will run from October 2005 to August
2006. The classes will be held in Bloomington at the University
of Illinois Extension Office. Developed by The Land Stewardship
Project, Farm Beginnings is now in its ninth year and has trained
over 225 people -- over 60 percent of whom are currently engaged
in sustainable farming enterprises, including: dairy (cow and
goat), beef, hogs, meat goats, sheep, poultry, wholesale vegetables,
Community Supported Agriculture, organic grains and specialty
products such as flowers.
Many Farm Beginnings participants have said that they were discouraged
at a young age about going into farming and view this program
as a way to determine if farming makes sense for them at this
point in their lives. Women make up 50 percent of the participants.
About half do not have land or previous farm experience. The
other 50 percent have had farming experience or are currently
farming but are looking for new ideas and skills to succeed.
people are pessimistic about the future for family farms,"
said Terra Brockman, who co-coordinates the central Illinois
Farm Beginnings program. "But this program is proving that
an environmentally and economically sound future for family farms
and rural communities is possible."
Farm Beginnings offers training
through a series of sessions that will be held this fall and
winter. Topics to be covered include: goal setting; planning
for the whole farm; creative financing; how to get started; innovative
marketing; and social, environmental and financial monitoring.
The foundation of the program is a mentorship component that
links established farmers with course participants. This farmer-to-farmer
networking has proven immensely successful in Minnesota, where
Farm Beginnings participants have drawn on the expertise and
experience of farmers who are doing everything from management
of intensive rotational grazing to commercial vegetable production.
Participants interact with the established farmers through field
days as well as one-on-one farm visits and informal meetings.
The Central Illinois Farm Beginnings program has been developed
by a local steering committee consisting of experienced farmers,
farm financial advisers and members of The Land Connection, the
University of Illinois and the University of Illinois Extension.
Steering committee member Stan Schutte, a farmer from Shelbyville,
said, “We aren't reproducing farmers anymore."
has the potential to launch a whole new generation of farmers
in the region. We need to make it possible for young people-men,
women and families- to be involved in farming,”
said Leslie Cooperband, U of I Extension specialist who is also
involved with the program. It's imperative for the well-being
of our rural communities -- and of our state and nation -- to
encourage and support farming methods that are good for the environment,
as well as being economically viable. The fee for the full-year
program is $800, which includes course books and materials, eight
workshops, conferences/field day fees, refreshments, mentorships,
and a one year complimentary Land Connection membership.
program also offers excellent opportunities for established farmers
to pass on their experience and knowledge as mentors or as a
part of the steering committee,” said Brockman. Illinois
will have two programs: Central Illinois Farm Beginnings and
Stateline Farm Beginnings, which will be for northern Illinois
and southern Wisconsin.
The Stateline Farm Beginnings is a project
of the Collaborative Regional Alliance for Farmer Training, http://www.csalearningcenter.org/craft.html and
partners with the Churches' Center for Land and People www.op.org/cclp
For more information on being a Farm Beginnings participant
or mentor/steering committee member for the Central Illinois
Farm Beginnings, contact Deborah Cavanaugh-Grant at 217-968-5512;
firstname.lastname@example.org. Additional information is available at the
Central Illinois Farm Beginnings www.farmbeginnings.uiuc.edu.
the Stateline Farm Beginnings, contact Parker Forsell, CSA Learning
Center at Angelic Organics at 815-389-8455; CRAFT@CSALearningCenter.org