URBANA, Ill. - Aspiring Illinois farmers, new growers with less than five years’ experience, commodity farmers interested in diversifying to include fruit or vegetable production, and high school and community college agriculture teachers are invited to apply now for the next session of a free training program offered through the University of Illinois crop sciences department.
“Preparing a New Generation of Illinois Fruit and Vegetable Farmers” opened the application process for its second session on July 1. The application period will be open through October 15, 2013, or until capacity is reached. Participants can apply for the program at http://www.newillinoisfarmers.org/new_generation_app.php. There is no fee for participants who complete the program.
The year-long program, which features classroom, hands-on, and in-field instruction on essential skills and information, is offered at three locations in Illinois: the UIUC campus in Urbana, U of I’s Dixon Springs Agricultural Center in Simpson, and at the Kane County U of I Extension office in St. Charles. Classes for this session will be held one Saturday a month at each location from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., running December 2013 through November 2014.
U of I crop sciences professor Rick Weinzierl and co-workers received a grant last year from the Beginning Farmer-Rancher Development Program of the National Institute of Food and Agriculture, USDA, to implement the three-year project to provide education to aspiring Illinois farmers.
Mary Hosier, project manager for the program, said that next year, through a partnership with the Illinois Migrant Council, the goal is that classes will be offered in Spanish and in English at all locations. Hosier added that nearly 100 people participated in the first session across the three locations.
Topics to be covered in the program include:
- Land acquisition and transfer
- Business planning
- Legal issues
- Farm and food safety
- Farm to School
- Equipment operation and safety
- Transplant production
- High tunnel construction and operation
- Soils and soil testing
- Cover crops and tillage
- Variety evaluations
- Pest and disease scouting
- Integrated pest management
- Pesticide application
- Pruning and thinning
- Harvest practices
- Postharvest handling
- Conventional and organic production methods
The program will also include visits to established produce farms, discussions with experienced farmers, and access to incubator plots.