This is an exciting time to start farming. With five times more farmers over the age of 65 than under 35 we need new farmers like you. Local food is hot. The trend favoring local food and know your farmer is in your favor. We have come a long way since the word ‘locavore’ was invented in 2005 by Chef Jessica Prentice in San Francisco. Now everyone knows that local food means fresh, tasty, more sustainable and supporting local communities. They are asking for local food. Four out of five respondents to a 2006 national survey said they purchased fresh produce directly from growers either occasionally or always. These local saavy consumers are in your neighborhood. One in five US consumers live within a days drive of SE PA.
Sometimes making the leap from farm worker to farm owner is difficult, or seemingly impossible, without the land, equipment, and capital to get started. Farm ownership includes many pieces not always covered in a typical on-farm learning experience; such as how to piece together a marketing plan, manage crop plantings and rotations, and plan ahead for looming pest and disease problems. The Seed Farm program helps build a bridge from farm worker to farm owner by giving you experience in key areas including management, tractor/ equipment use, business planning, and marketing. The incubator portion of the program will then allow you to start your business, building your customer base, credit and skills with continued support among a community of farmers.
During the training program, apprentices build skills in greenhouse production, seeding, transplanting, irrigation, soils, cover crops, pest management, weed management, season extension, and post harvest handling. They also have a crop project in which they develop a comprehensive plan for a particular crop and manage it throughout the season. Trainees also rotate through five management areas: greenhouse, compost, farmers market, cover crop, and high tunnel where they make key decisions and delegate tasks with the support of the farm manager. Equipment training is an emphasis at the Seed Farm. We have a wide range of seeding, transplanting, cultivation, and soil tillage tools that are demonstrated and used at the farm. On-farm training is complemented by classroom activities including the following courses organized by Penn State Extension: Exploring the Small Farm Dream, Introduction to Organic Vegetable Production, and Vegetable Business Planner. In addition, farm visits are arranged through the local CRAFT (Collaborative Alliance for New Farmer Training) apprentice program and PASA (Pennsylvania Association for Sustainable Agriculture).
Pennsylvania is a wonderful place to learn to farm. In addition to the Seed Farm there is a fabulous community of mentor farmers through the Collaborative Regional Alliance for Farmer Training (CRAFT) which the Seed Farm participates in; the Pennsylvania Association for Sustainable Agriculture (PASA), the New Jersey Organic Farming Association (NOFA NJ), and Penn State Extension – Start Farming programs provide a wide assortment of workshops and resources in this area.
For more information and application materials visit www.theseedfarm.org or call Seed Farm Director Sara Runkel (610) 391-9583 ex.16. Applications are due October 15, 2012.