By Linda Peterson, Sonoma County UC Cooperative Extension
In 2012, Sonoma County UC Cooperative Extension (UCCE) launched the first of a three year USDA funded beginning farmer & rancher training to increase food access, food security and create more jobs; with an emphasis on reaching underserved populations. Our partners include Santa Rosa Junior College (SRJC) & Shone Farm - providing classroom space, instructors, and opportunities for farm enterprise projects; the Latino Service Providers conducting outreach; and California FarmLink offering farmers technical assistance in accessing land.
The 2013 Beginning Farmer & Rancher Training application is available on-line through the end of March, at: http://ucanr.org/sites/BFRSOCO/. We are seeking farmers and ranchers with some experience and a real commitment to build an agricultural business. Interested parties can also pick up a hard copy of the application at the UCCE office, located at 133 Aviation Blvd., #109, Santa Rosa, or call 707-565-2648 for more information.
The course runs from May through October; three days each month. One Friday of business planning, one Friday of farming/ranching sessions, and one Saturday field day. The program draws on instructors from SRJC’s Sustainable Ag Department, UCCE, and local master farmers. As we offered last year, there will be Small Business Development Counselors to assist students with creating and completing their business plans.
A wide range of Master farmers and ranchers will participate this year providing mentoring/work experience, serving on panels, and hosting/assisting with field days.
UCCE is pleased to be strengthening the partnership with SRJC this year by incorporating the training into SRJC’s existing Sustainable Agriculture Certificate Program. This is a logical next step and a key component to the overall success of aspiring farmers and ranchers.
New this year will be a pilot project at SRJC Shone Farm that may include graduates from our 2012 class, growing specific crops for use locally and internationally. There will also be opportunities for our BFRs to create work experience projects through SRJC that would create added value for the Shone Farm’s CSA.
For more information, contact Linda Peterson, Program Coordinator at firstname.lastname@example.org or 707/565-2648.