Budding organic farmers can blossom through a Kansas State University program.
Established in response to requests by area organic growers for a training program to increase numbers of local organic producers, the Growing Growers Training Program facilitates on-farm apprenticeships complemented by workshops on critical skills to train new growers and improve the skills of existing growers to meet large demand for local and organically grown produce in the Kansas City metropolitan area.
"Farming is a profession that requires multiple skills related to production, marketing and financial management," says Ted Carey, K-State vegetable specialist. "The Growing Growers Training Program provides training for new farmers as they enter the field, while also encouraging established farmers to improve such skills in response to changing circumstances and new information about sustainable farming practices."
The program was developed in fall 2003 with support from a U.S. Department of Agriculture Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education grant and is a collaborative effort of K-State, University of Missouri Extension, the Kansas City Food Circle and the Kansas Rural Center.
Apprenticeships can be paid or volunteer, depending on the agreement by host farmers and apprentices, Carey says. Apprentices gain core competencies through practical and theoretical training activities, including one-on-one training by host farmers, farm tours, workshops and apprentice-directed independent study.
These competencies were developed with the help of local organic direct market farmers, who identified topic areas and skill sets that they felt were essential for successful farmers.
The program has attracted a wide range of applicants with various backgrounds, at a time when there is great interest in local food.
"There is an increasing public demand for local, fresh, organically grown produce," he adds. "We're trying to give producers the skills to make a living meeting that demand."
More information on the Growing Growers Training Program is available