Beginning Farmer USDA Grant

Farmer mentor Jim Leap works with Deb Harris of Pie Ranch.

In 2012 the Center was awarded a 3-year grant from the US Department of Agriculture's Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program (BFRDP). Collaborators on the project include the California Certified Organic Farmers, Community Alliance with Family Farmers, and the Ecological Farming Association

The goals of the "Building a Foundation for New Farmers: Training, Resources, and Networks" project are to prepare well-trained new farmers for sustainable production and small farm viability, to support these farmers in their early years of operation, and to build a mentorship and peer farmer network that will help ensure their long-term viability and success. A special focus of this project is providing top-quality training and support resources to new and future farmers from socially disadvantaged and limited resource communities.

The four partners in this project have well-established and successful records of training and supporting new farmers. This project seeks to increase and strengthen those efforts by expanding training opportunities at the CASFS Farm & Garden Apprenticeship program; revising widely-used production and marketing training manuals for national dissemination; and creating new national and regional mentoring and peer-to-peer support opportunities via workshops, one-on-one sessions, and social networking tools. In doing so, this project will create the foundation to support new farmers as they ascend the learning ladder, from farmer-in-training, to beginning farmer, to part of a network in which they eventually become a mentor for new farmers in their region.

This project will also create resources to support beginning farmers, including farmer mentor recommendations that will be replicated in other regions throughout the country by our program alumni and other farmers and farmer educators.

The project entails the following three objectives:

1) Increase and improve beginning farmer education nationwide by updating and expanding proven training materials and disseminating these materials (both free and at-cost) to groups supporting beginning farmers. This objective resulted in the updated and expanded training manuals, Teaching Organic Farming and Gardening: Resources for Instructors, and Teaching Direct Marketing and Small Farm Viability, Resources for Instructors.

2) Provide intensive training for beginning farmers from across the country, including socially disadvantaged and limited resource participants, through the six-month CASFS Apprenticeship Program and new advanced apprenticeship programming, and support graduates through an online mentorship.

3) Coordinate California Central Coast beginning farmer education opportunities, including conference workshops, field days, and mentoring while developing a continuing education model appropriate for national dissemination. Develop and maintain the Central Coast Farmer Education Network Calendar on the Grow a Farmer website.

Read more about the project in this UCSC News release.