Teaching Direct Marketing and Small Farm Viability: Resources for Instructors

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For farmers, growing crops is just one step in running a successful farm—making the farm or market garden economically viable requires another suite of skills, including finding land, planning what crops to grow, marketing the crops, and managing income and expenses. Teaching Direct Marketing and Small Farm Viability: Resources for Instructors builds on the Center for Agroecology and Sustainable Food System's experience in developing its first training manual, Teaching Organic Farming and Gardening: Resources for Instructors. It also builds on our experience educating hundreds of apprentice growers in organic production, farm and business planning, direct marketing at a roadside farm stand, and Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) management through hands-on training in the running of our 100-member CSA program.

Teaching Direct Marketing and Small Farm Viability: Resources for Instructors is organized into six units, three focusing on marketing and three covering other topics related to making a small farm economically viable. Included are lessons and resources for running a CSA project, selling at farmers' markets, forming collaborative marketing groups and grower cooperatives, and selling to restaurants. Also covered are strategies to improve small farm planning, including enterprise visioning and market assessment; creating a business plan, including marketing and crop plans; and managing cash flow. Land tenure options such as cash-rent leases from non-profits, shared ownership models, conservation easements, and community land trusts are reviewed as additional mechanisms for addressing the complex issue of the economic viability of small-scale agriculture. This resource also reviews the trends and factors that influence small-scale agriculture's economics, and provides an overview of produce marketing in the U.S.

The training manual is designed for –

  • Instructors at college and universities, agriculture organizations, farm-training programs, apprenticeship programs
  • Agricultural extension personnel
  • Farmers with interns
  • Growers, teachers, and organizers at urban farms, community gardens, and food projects with direct-marketing outlets

This instructor's resource features class and field demonstration outlines, trainee exercises, and resource materials, with a focus on CSA. The manual can be used in a classroom setting or adapted for other training formats, such as short courses, conferences, and field days.

It is our intention that these instructional materials be used as widely as possible for education and training. We also plan to update and add materials through the web version, and we encourage educators to visit this website to offer evaluation and to send us instructional materials that may be of use in future revisions.

The development of this training manual was made possible with funding from the True North Foundation, the Foundation for Sustainability and Innovation, and the Organic Farming Research Foundation.

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