Lansing Roots Beginning Farmer Program in Michigan 2014Lansing Roots is a program of the Greater Lansing Food Bank (GLFB), designed to help beginning farmers from the greater Lansing area begin successful market gardening and farming enterprises through an incubator farm setting. Our primary purpose is to encourage beginning farmers to grow produce for sale in Mid-Michigan. The GLFB has been supporting home and community gardens for over thirty years through the Garden Project. With a network of over 90 community gardens, the Garden Project served over 5,000 individuals in 2012. Lansing Roots will serve as a complement to the GLFB’s on-going support for community gardens by encouraging successful gardeners and interested entrepreneurs to develop farm enterprises, and by lowering the barriers to success. Designed to host new farm businesses for 2-5 years, the incubator plots for first year farmers are 100’ x 100’ (1/4 acre). With opportunities to expand in later years, participants will have the opportunity to scale up their farm production to support their new businesses. Lansing Roots is also home to a Demonstration Farm which grows donation produce for the GLFB to distribute to the 200+ agencies it serves. In addition, it provides an outdoor classroom for farmers, interns, and volunteers as it hosts workshops and showcases different styles of crop production. Lansing Roots focuses on limited resource and historically under-served individuals and is made possible through a Beginning Farmer Rancher Development Program grant through the USDA-NIFA. With an emphasis on refugee, immigrant, minority, low-income, and women farmers, we accept applications from all beginning farmers. Applicants should have a background and strong interest in farming or gardening. Most successful applicants will have participated in a farmer training program, apprentice or internship, will have an agricultural background from their country of origin, or have completed multiple seasons of community gardening successfully. You can get a lot more information about this program by clicking Read More -> Beyond knowledge about growing food, applicants should also consider if they have the following:
- An idea or plan outlining what type of farm business they will create and operate.
- Willingness to learn about or knowledge of business topics (accounting, enterprise management)
- An understanding of the costs, including: plot and tool fees, seeds/plants, marketing, equipment, storage, etc.
- The ability to work alongside others of diverse social, cultural, and economic backgrounds
- The ability to communicate questions, comments, and concerns about operations, farm policy, issues facing your farm business, potential conflicts, and/or other issues. The ability to provide for translation services when necessary for communication.
- The ability to get to the farm regularly (not accessible by public transportation)
- Willingness to seek out mentors and learn collaboratively with other farmers and Lansing Roots staff.
- Time to commit to the program. We estimate farmers will spend a minimum of 12-24 hours per week on their farm business. Beyond growing food, participants are required to attend workshops, regular meetings, trainings, and other program activities such as marketing and volunteering.
Lansing Roots – Farmer GuidelinesFarmers who participate in the program will be expected to understand and commit to the following requirements: Business planning – Farmers who participate in Lansing Roots will be expected to create a business plan for their enterprise (with guidance and assistance from staff and workshops), and are encouraged to be innovative. Business plans should include a budget, crop plan, and marketing plan. Workshops and technical assistance – Lansing Roots provides a variety of educational opportunities. Monthly workshops are free to participants and focus on a variety of topics directed towards small-scale agriculture. Roots farmers must commit to attending at least 75% of these workshops. Supplemental trainings on other subjects are offered on a regular basis throughout the year and technical assistance is provided by staff through field walks and one-on-one meetings. Topics include pest/disease management, weed strategies, tool maintenance, crop-specific growing techniques, season extension, marketing, crop planning, business and enterprise planning, food safety and proper handling techniques. Fees – Participants will have the opportunity to generate income through their own business, and as such, are responsible for their own costs. A key component of Lansing Roots is creating viable farm enterprises. It costs money and time to run a business and by charging a small fee for services, Lansing Roots will teach participants business planning, budgeting and time management. Fees also offset the costs of farm maintenance. Certain fees can be paid through payment plans. Please talk to program staff if you need assistance. Program Fee: $150/quarter acre plot for the first season *This fee can be waived by completing 15 volunteer hours for the season.* Includes: One fenced plot (approximately 100’ x 100’), access to headpipe for irrigation, access to technical assistance, group sales opportunities, fall cover crops, workshops and training, shared use of facilities (barn, wash area, lanes, compost piles) and spring tilling Seasonal Fee: $50 for tools Includes: basic hand tools (shovels, hoes, digging forks, trowels, etc.) backpack sprayer, specialty field hoes, wheel hoe, multiple seeding implements, bed rake, specialized farm specific hand tools, broadfork, and limited usage of walk behind tiller and weedwhip As-Needed Costs (Optional) Tractor Services – Lansing Roots staff will prepare fields in the spring for planting and will cover crop fields in the fall. Further tractor services will be charged by the hour at $45-65/hour. Examples may include: Mowing, additional tilling, laying plastic mulch, and making raised beds Gasoline powered equipment – The tool fee covers limited use of the mower and walk-behind tiller. Additional use will be charged by the hour to cover operation costs. Technical Assistance – A certain allowance of Technical Assistance help is provided through the program fee. If professional assistance is needed beyond what is offered through the program, it will be charged at $25/hour. Organic Pesticides, Row Cover, Plastic Mulch, Organic Fertilizers and Other Supplies – Many items are far cheaper when purchased in bulk. Certain items that are used on the demo farm will be available for purchase at cost in smaller quantities. Prices will vary by product. Hoophouse Space Rental – Can be paid through volunteer hours or as a fee. Contact staff to discuss your needs. Other costs – Farmers should anticipate costs beyond program fees. Remember to budget for other expenses, like: seeds and transplants, specialty tools not supplied by Lansing Roots, irrigation equipment (hoses, overhead sprinklers, drip tape), trellising equipment, organic fertilizers, organic pesticides, mulches, safety gear, harvest equipment (harvest knives, bins, crates, etc), transportation costs, and any other costs not expressly covered by Lansing Roots program fees. Tools and supplies – Shared tools and supplies may NOT be used off of the farm and should always be returned clean to their proper location. All participants are required to complete a safety and maintenance course with Lansing Roots staff and obtain staff approval before using any potentially hazardous tools supplied by Lansing Roots. In the event that a tool is damaged or is not operating properly, staff must be notified immediately. Organic practices and chemical use – ANY proposed use of chemicals, especially those that require spray application, requires prior approval from Lansing Roots staff BEFORE on-site application. Lansing Roots participants must follow organic guidelines as defined by the National Organic Program, but organic certification is not required for participants. Any chemical use (i.e. seed treatments, soil amendments, pesticides, herbicides, or fungicides) must be approved for use in organic systems. Participants are required to complete a training on proper storage, handling, and safety of potentially hazardous substances before they are allowed to apply any on their plots. Appropriate Personal Protective Equipment safety gear must be worn when applying any chemicals. Adjacent plots that are downwind at the time of application must be vacated. Marketing – The Lansing Roots program is focused on building viable new farm enterprises. The intent of successful applicants should be to generate supplemental or primary income through their farm business. All food that farmers grow on their Lansing Roots plot is theirs, all money made from selling that produce is theirs. Farmers should have a marketing strategy before planting to ensure success. Farmers are encouraged to consider selling through our cooperative opportunities but should be aware that the cooperative will not be able to market all produce that is grown. Time commitment – Participants should anticipate spending a significant amount of time at their farm site. We estimate farmers will spend a MINIMUM of 12-24 hours per week on their farm business including time on your farm plot, workshops, trainings, and meetings. Marketing and produce delivery takes several hours or more per week. Participants using joint marketing opportunities will be required to spend time on joint sales. Be sure to include travel time in your planning as well. If you volunteer for your plot fees, that time must be considered as well. Farmer meetings – Farmers are expected to schedule and commit to weekly meetings with Lansing Roots staff. These check-ins will help growers identify pests, weeds, effectively manage production, and generate new ideas and growing strategies. Lansing Roots participants will also be expected to attend occasional all-farmer meetings to discuss policy, challenges, upcoming events, and to encourage collaboration and ongoing learning. Recordkeeping – Successful farmers maintain detailed records. Participants are required to turn in a copy of their records each month. Each farmer should maintain:
- Farm time logs
- Planting schedules
- Input applications (soil amendments, pesticides, etc.)
- Harvest logs (pounds harvested for both sales and home use)
- Costs and income
- Maps and field history information