Farm Beginnings is a farmer-led training and support program that provides participants the opportunity to learn first-hand about low-cost, sustainable methods of farming and the tools to successfully launch a profitable farm enterprise. Local farmers in collaboration with Dakota Rural Action are hosting the fourth year of classes starting in November in Sioux Falls, SD. Deadline for application is September 28, 2012 and class size is limited. Course information and online application can be found at www.dakotarural.org/farmbeginnings or by contacting Dakota Rural Action at (605) 697-5204 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Farm Beginnings classes are held twice a month from November to March. Students take part in sessions such as Whole Farm Planning, Financial Planning, Marketing, Business Planning, Connecting with Resources, and Connecting with Mentors. On-farm education is offered in the spring and summer months through a variety of farm tours and skills sessions. The course also includes the opportunity for students to further their skills by participating in mentorships/apprenticeships with local farmers.
Course graduates are engaged in a variety of enterprises, including livestock, grains, vegetable and fruit production, dairy, specialty products, and Community Supported Agriculture (CSA). Participants can be of any age, do not need to own land, and include prospective, beginning, part-time, or full-time farmers.
“When we began the Farm Beginnings course we knew little more than that we wanted to start an apple orchard,” said Laura Clark, a Farm Beginnings graduate. “The course gave us glimpses into the operations of many non-traditional farming operations and helped us define our goals and seek out additional training. The course was really the springboard that took us from dreaming to doing.”
Aaron Johnson took the Farm Beginnings course in preparation for joining his family’s organic grains operation. “Being able to hear first hand from the experiences of established farmers was incredible. I feel so much more prepared and confident about becoming a partner at Johnson Farms and one day possibly taking over the farming operation.”
Farm Beginnings® is an established curriculum developed over a decade ago by the Minnesota-based Land Stewardship Project that is now replicated in several different states, including IL, NE, ND and NY. Dakota Rural Action has adapted the curriculum to meet the needs of regional farmers. The project is supported by the Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program of the National Institute of Food and Agriculture, USDA, Grant #2010-03066.
Dakota Rural Action is a grassroots family agriculture and conservation group that organizes South Dakotans to protect our family farmers and ranchers, natural resources, and unique way of life.