EAST LANSING, Mich. — Are you a beginning or aspiring farmer, schoolyard gardener, homesteader or landowner interested in adding a side hustle to your off-farm income? The MSU Organic Farmer Training Program (OFTP) may be a great fit for YOU!
The OFTP brings together a farm-centered learning community with participants of diverse ages, backgrounds, genders and farming interests. Each participant moves closer to their farm goals through weekly in person instruction that allows them to share and work towards their vision with a supportive cohort, visit farms, work together and develop a personalized farm business plan.
The MSU Organic Farmer Training Program teaches growers and aspiring farmers in a 50/50 mix of field and classroom activities every Monday from 9am to 5pm at the MSU Student Organic Farm. In the field, everyone participates in hands-on activities, farm walks and equipment demonstrations. In the classroom, the focus is on small group activities, full group discussions and participant presentations. In addition to the knowledge of program staff and participants, learning is enhanced through a number of guest speakers, including farmers, MSU Extension agents, MSU researchers, Farm Service Agency loan specialists and other experts. The program organizes visits to over 20 Michigan farms, exposing students firsthand to different models of successful businesses, many of whom have graduated from the OFTP. Outside of class, video lectures, readings and practical assignments, like writing a Farm Business Plan connect learning themes from the class to individual farm goals.
Cindy Kern graduated with the OFTP class of 2019. She and her husband, Rich, bought Cardinal Farms in 2019 and she shares that, “Without the 2019 cohort, Rich and I would definitely not be starting production on our farm in 2020. I needed the foundation in so many essentials of small-scale market farming and I received those through OFTP.”
In 2019, seven of the sixteen OFTP graduates began the program with farmland and/or a working farm, three purchased land during the program and the rest managed educational gardens, worked on farms or were scaling up gardens into backyard enterprises. This reflects trends from the past few years as well -of OFTP graduates, 80% are farming full or part-time and 60% of those farming own their own operation.
— Katie Brandt, Michigan State University Extension
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