This vegetable production course is designed to benefit beginner vegetable producers who have 0-3 years of vegetable growing experience or no formal training in agriculture. The participants will learn answers to the basic questions about farm business planning, planning and preparing for vegetable farm, warm and cool-season vegetable production techniques, season extension, identification of biotic and abiotic issues, and marketing.
Connecticut FarmLink, a clearing house for the transition between generations of landowners with the goal of keeping farmland in production, is pleased to announce the launch of a redesigned website, www.ctfarmlink.org. A partnership between the Connecticut Department of Agriculture and the Connecticut Farmland Trust (CFT) with funding through the Community Investment Act (CIA) is ensuring new and beginning farmers are able to more easily locate and access farmland for their business.
“One of the top barriers for beginning farmers to getting started, or having their own business, is land access,” said Bryan P. Hurlburt, Connecticut Department of Agriculture Commissioner. “Connecticut FarmLink lets them find available land that meets their needs and evens the playing field to finding farm properties.”
The updated website now features log-in profiles, allowing both farmland owners and farmland seekers to edit, or deactivate, at their own convenience. A filter option enables them to select what they are looking for whether it’s properties, seekers, or resources. An integrated online messaging offers instant connection between all parties and email notifications will be sent when new farmland options have been posted.
“Users will be better able to manage their own information and the redesigned site is modeled after other FarmLink websites available nationally, making it more consistent for searchers,” says Lily Orr, Connecticut Farmland Trust Conservation Associate. Orr was responsible for working with a consultant to build and transition the website to the new format incorporating feedback from users to include features they requested.
There are currently more than 70 properties listed that are looking for a farmer to keep the land in production. “Agriculture is so diverse in Connecticut, we have people looking a quarter acre up to 200 acres, everything from vegetables and greenhouses to forestland for mushrooms or maple sugaring,” says Kip Kolesinskas, consulting Conservation Scientist. “The website is a source of information offering connections to agency programs and planning for everything related to leasing, farmland preservation and succession planning.”
To learn more about farmland available in Connecticut, visit www.ctfarmlink.org, or contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
Over recent years a new cohort of farmers has cropped up in our small state. “New”, “Beginning”, “First-generation”, “Early stage”— these growers have been met by a growing number of training programs to help them get started, improve their production skills, and enhance the viability of their businesses. This is a group of avid learners who are always on the lookout for training opportunities, both online, and in a hands-on classroom setting. Most demonstrate a strong interest in sustainable production of specialty crops to sell directly to consumers through Community Supported Agriculture (CSAs), farmers’ markets, and farm stands.
In response to the training needs of new farmers, UConn Extension launched the Solid Ground Farmer Training Program, featuring classroom trainings, online tutorials, and state-wide events targeting growers who range in experience from 0 – 10 years of farming. Since 2012, UConn Extension has received over $1.1 million through USDA’s Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Grant Program to develop new farmer trainings and resources.
The UConn Extension team hires and schedules trainers, advertises the program, provides in-person staff support at each training, and steers collaboration with the New CT Farmer Alliance and CT NOFA. Partners set training priorities, help recruit participants, and ensure that trainings are happening across the state so that growers can access this learning opportunity in small group settings. These partners include: Grow Windham, Killingly Agricultural Education Program, Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Nation, Community Farm of Simsbury, Common Ground (New Haven), Green Village Initiative (Bridgeport), Knox (Hartford), and Listo Para Inciar-Urban Agriculture Program, a sister project led by German Cutz, Associate Extension Educator in Fairfield County.
Current and aspiring farmers are welcome to attend as many trainings as they like. Yoko Takemura and Alex Carpenter from Assawaga Farm (Nipmuck for ‘in between’) in Putnam typify clients in the program. Summer 2018 will be their first year of production. Their farm will feature certified organic Japanese vegetables to be sold in Boston area. After attending six Solid Ground trainings, Yoko explains: “As a new farmer, there are many things you don’t know that you don’t know. So, these programs encourage you to ask new questions you hadn’t previously thought of before and therefore to be better prepared for the season. Since many of the trainers are local, the content of the trainings is more relevant (versus online content) and it’s great that you can follow up with them after the training!”
In its first year (winter 2016-17), the Solid Ground Training Program delivered 28 trainings and events with a cumulative attendance of more than 500 participants. Over 30 trainings are currently scheduled for 2018. All trainings are free and open to growers of all backgrounds. UConn Extension provides translation services for Spanish-speaking attendees. Experienced farmers lead training classes such as Season Extension, Eco-Focused Farming, Post-Harvest Handling, Finding Your Market, and Irrigation for Small Farms. Extension educators and professional consultants deliver trainings on Farm Financial Recordkeeping, Soil Health, Cover Crops, Tractor Safety and Maintenance, Fruit Production, and Pesticide Safety.
“The 4-hour intensive Planting and Growing Cover Crop training with Eero Ruuttila was really great because even though his examples were on large scale farms, there were so many ideas that could be translated into my small-scale farm. I thought 4 hours was long, but I definitely wanted it to be longer,” says Yoko. The Solid Ground Program also provides one-on-one consultations with specialists in the areas of farm finance, soil health, and vegetable production. These consultations are intended to build on the knowledge and skills acquired through trainings in the classroom.
This project is sponsored by the USDA-NIFA Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program Award #2016-70017-25416
Article by Jiff Martin
UConn Extension and 8 statewide agricultural partners have received a grant from USDA-NIFA for their project, “Advancing the Business of Farming in Connecticut in Partnership with Agriculture Learning Centers.” The nearly $600,000 grant integrates the expertise and current training programs of UConn Extension with the Agricultural Learning Centers that provide targeted training, mentoring, and one-on-one technical assistance customized to meet the needs of beginning farmers in Connecticut.
The project is developed by and for beginning farmers across the state, and will strengthen beginning farmer training and foster a self-sustaining community of practice among beginning farmer training program leaders. Instead of duplicating the efforts of great organizations that are already building beginner farmer training programs, this project enriches and aligns beginning farmer training programs via consistent strategies and common metrics.
The Agricultural Learning Centers partnering on the grant are: Common Ground High School in New Haven, the Community Farm of Simsbury, the Green Village Initiative in Bridgeport, Killingly Agriculture Education Program, KNOX in Hartford, WRCC-GROW Windham, and UConn Extension’s Listo Para Inciar urban agriculture program in Danbury and Stamford. Other key partners in the project are the New CT Farmer Alliance (NCTFA) and the Northeast Organic Farming Association of CT.
NCTFA is a statewide network of over 200 beginning farmers and growers. “With this investment supported through the USDA, the alliance will further increase accessibility between agricultural support services, and Connecticut’s budding community of agricultural entrepreneurs,” said Betsy Robson, NCTFA Coordinator.
UConn Extension has a long tradition bringing research-based guidance and training to producers. Dr. German Cutz of the Fairfield County Extension Center leads the Listo Para Inciar (or Ready-to-Start) training program, which delivers a hands-on, cohort based model of beginner farming training for Hispanics.
“It is very exciting to be part of the Advancing the Business of Farming grant because it will ensure that urban residents get an opportunity to learn and practice urban agriculture,” German says. “The Ready to Start Program will train urban adult residents in urban agriculture. The Ready to Start program is a collaborative effort involving UConn Extension, local farmers, and community-based agencies and organizations, and will counter food insecurity and food desert areas in urban cities in Connecticut. Low-income families, especially, will have access to locally produced food while at the same time newly trained urban farmers will engage in food production.”
Core trainings for beginning farmers will emphasize: business planning, financial management and record keeping; farmland access; overcoming marketing uncertainties; and small scale production of vegetables and fruit. Programs will be offered in person, with online tutorials developed for many of the modules, including farm business planning, soil health, safe and effective use of pesticides, and marketing for success.
The long term goal of the collaborative team is for every beginning farmer in Connecticut who wishes to produce food for income – regardless of scale, experience, or language barriers – to have access to fundamental training, know where to find service providers and their resources, and be able to start or continue farming profitably.
UConn Extension Educator Jiff Martin is serving as principal investigator and says,”I am thrilled to embark on this new chapter of work with Connecticut’s beginning farmers. Our newest and aspiring farmers deserve a robust and coordinated investment from all of us who work as agriculture educators. I look forward to working with our partners to meet the needs of a wide variety farmers with various background and experience in agriculture, with a shared focus on the future of agriculture in our cities, suburbs, and rural communities.”