A proper background in the farming business is sometimes all what separates a successful enterprise from a failed one.
To encourage aspiring entrepreneurial farmers, the non-profit organization Center for Land-Based Learning’s California Farm Academy will offer beginners a course on specialty crop production at its headquarters in Winters, Calif., that will be split into two sessions, starting February 16, 2012 and another tentatively planned for November.
The program, which includes partners such as Sierra Orchards, Farm Fresh To You/Capay Organic and UC Davis Russell Ranch, will cover subjects from production to marketing.
Professionals already in the business will help lead the course’s topics, such as direct and wholesale marketing, pest management and farm equipment operation.
“We offer a hands-on, interactive learning environment in which you will build the knowledge and skills you’ll need to become a successful farmer,” said Farm Academy Director Jennifer Taylor.
In fact, the hands-on segment means students will get to practice the skills learned during the course at various sites, including the Farm Fresh To You/Capay Organic farm and a greenhouse. Another added bonus: The California Farm Academy will give graduates a chance to lease 1/4- to 1/2 acre of land through the school for three years.
The 22-week program, priced at $1,950, is designed for those with busy schedules, with courses offered in the evening and on weekends for a total of seven to 10 hours of class and training time per week. The cost includes printed materials, machinery, tools and supplies.
The coursework load will be substantial, with students graded on participation, extra reading assignments and tests. In addition, participants will work on two long-term projects, a business plan and independent study project. Both have as their goal to place students in a scenario of a real-life business.
The California Farm Academy training program was conceived to spur young people to go into an industry in which, according to the organization, the average Californian farmer business owner is 58 years old. These entrepreneurs produce crops valued at $20 billion per year, it says, and the business is in need of the next generation of farmers.
The California Department of Food and Agriculture 2010 Specialty Crop Block Grant Program funds the California Farm Academy.
The California Farm Academy is just one of the Center for Land-Based Learning’s courses. Its Slews Program, for instance, is created for high-school students and teaches them about restoring and protecting habitats.
The organization focuses on educating young people on sustainable agriculture, which can lead to employment in the agriculture, environment or food-system areas.
Click here for more information on the California Farm Academy. Registrations for the course close on Dec. 9, 2011.