Beginning Farmer Training and Education in Oregon

New Partnership Provides Beginning Farmer Education and Training for Oregon’s Future Rogue Farm Corps (RFC) and Rogue Community College (RCC) have teamed up to offer Oregon’s first and only bona fide educational on-farm internship program.  The Farms Next Internship Program provides beginning farmers and ranchers entry-level training in sustainable agriculture through an innovative cooperative program on numerous commercial farms in the Rogue Valley. In 2010, Rogue Farm Corps took a leadership role in establishing a legal framework for on-farm internships, in response to discussions in Salem with state agencies and concerned farmers about the current quasi-legal status of informal internships.   As a result, RFC launched negotiations with Rogue Community College to establish a new model of education and training for beginning farmers. “Training the next generations of farmers has never been more important.  A rapidly aging farm population and increasing food insecurity demands our attention now.  This new partnership with RCC will ensure these vital opportunities for young farmers to learn from experienced mentors will continue in our state,” said Rogue Farm Corps Executive Director Stuart O’Neill.

“I applaud the Rogue Farm Corps staff, along with the Rogue Community College, OSU Extension, and others involved with this effort. It’s a fine line to walk the laws and regulations intended to protect employees from being exploited, while providing a hands-on, real-life, on-the-farm training and learning experience as an internship,” said Oregon Department of Agriculture Director Katy Coba. Participants in the Farms Next internship program live and work full time on a host farm for an entire growing season, receiving ongoing instruction and learning in-depth skills unique to the host farmer’s operation.  A companion classroom component, farm tours and discussion circles will broaden the experience and expose student interns to the vast array of knowledge and expertise in our farming community. “We were lucky enough to learn farming from a number of dedicated mentors.  Working with Rogue Farm Corps and Rogue Community College is our opportunity to give back and mentor another generation of young farmers,” said Chris Jagger of Blue Fox Farm in Applegate, Oregon. Student interns enrolled in this track will be registered in the Rogue Community College’s Professional Skills Training course and will be provided with training curriculum specific to the host-training farm. “Rogue Community College is excited to partner with Rogue Farm Corp to launch Oregon’s first legal educational on-farm internship program.  We believe in the importance of training a new generation of farmers to use sustainable farming practices.  Rogue Farm Corp brings a rich background of knowledge and experience in this crucial arena,” said Margaret Bradford, Director of Marketing and Recruitment at RCC. For more information about Rogue Farm Corps and the Farms Next Internship Program, see www.roguefarmcorps.org.

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