Beginning Farmer Programs

A number of groups provide beginning farmer training in and near Wisconsin.

This list is for your information and does not imply endorsement by the University of Wisconsin.

Programs offered on a regular basis:

CIAS Beginning Farmer Schools:

  • School for Beginning Market Growers.  3-day weekend course offered on UW-Madison campus mid-January every year.  Strong focus on production.
  • School for Beginning Flower Growers.  3-day weekend course offered on UW-Madison campus mid-March every other year. Strong focus on production.
  • School for Beginning Apple Growers.  3-day weekend course offered on UW-Madison campus early March every year (this is the 2nd year). Strong focus on production.
  • School for Beginning Dairy and Livestock Farmers.  17-week course offered through the Short Course Program on the UW-Madison campus and through distance education at county Extension offices and technical colleges every winter/spring.  Focuses both on production and some business and financial planning.

Farm Beginnings Program.  Multi-week business development and planning program with options for mentoring offered through Land Stewardship Program in Minnesota, and now also through Angelic Organic Learning Center in northern Illinois, through Extension in central Illinois, and possibly other locations in the Midwest. 

CRAFT (Cooperative Regional Alliance for Farmer Training).  CRAFT works with farms in southern Wisconsin and northern Illinois to offer field days and guidance for internship programs.  In some years interns have also been offered classroom training at Michael Fields as part of the program. 

Central Wisconsin Beginning Farmer Course. http://www.farmshed.org/  Contact: John Sheffy, john@farmshed.org, 715-343-5956.  A 2-weekend course in February focusing on production.  

Growing Power Workshops.  Growing Power in Milwaukee offers 2-day hands-on workshops in vermi-composting, aquaponics, greenhouse production, and other topics monthly from January to May each year.  Probably more oriented toward Community Based Organizations than farmers.

Northeast Wisconsin Technical College The Sustainable Food & Agriculture Systems program prepares learners with the entrepreneurial and technical skills necessary to manage a profitable, environmentally sound agricultural business. Students will learn the fundamentals of sustainable agriculture focusing on crop production, animal management and farm business. Emphasis is placed on practical entrepreneurial and field training experiences. Graduates are qualified for employment in a variety of positions associated with sustainable agriculture, including commercial gardens and livestock operations, wholesale and retail management as well as food distribution and logistics.

 

Occasional farmer training:

Michael Fields Agricultural Institute has a long record of offering farmer training, but its offerings change from year to year.  See http://michaelfields.org/category/farm-food-education/  for more information.

Organic University and New Farmer UMOSES offers a selection of 1-day classes every year the day before the Organic Farming Conference, but the specific class choices vary.  Some of these classes are for experienced farmers.  MOSES also occasionally offers a weekend “New Farmer U” class and other training, organizes field days, and facilitates mentoring.  Look under “Events” on the webpage to see what is scheduled. 

Folk Schools – most offer primarily art, crafts, and recreation classes, but some offer classes in farming or homesteading skills:

Driftless Folk School, Viroqua, http://www.driftlessfolkschool.org/

Cedar Bend Folk School, Osceola, training programs under development, http://www.philadelphiacommunityfarm.org/cedarbend.htm

Online Courses

Conferences

If you know of other beginning farmer programs contact Lyssa Seefeldt at lyssa.seefeldt@ces.uwex.edu or (608) 297-3141.