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Sowing the Seeds: Minnesota's New Crop of Beginning Farmers

PHOTO: Dozens of Minnesota residents looking to get a start in agriculture will soon hit the classrooms and the fields, as the latest round of Farm Beginnings courses are set to get underway this fall. Photo credit: Marie Loughin / Flickr.
PHOTO: Dozens of Minnesota residents looking to get a start in agriculture will soon hit the classrooms and the fields, as the latest round of Farm Beginnings courses are set to get underway this fall. Photo credit: Marie Loughin / Flickr.
July 29, 2014

MINNEAPOLIS - It's long been a cornerstone of the Minnesota economy, but those wanting to get a start in local agriculture often find one barrier after another in their way.

Nick Olson, Farm Beginnings program organizer with the Land Stewardship Project, says for beginning farmers and ranchers, challenges include access to capital and access to affordable land, as the price per acre in the state has risen steadily.

"Historically, a lot of folks that were getting into farming had family land they were transitioning into and we're seeing less and less of that," says Olson. "That's a trend we've seen throughout the entire country, and particularly here in Minnesota."

To help beginning farmers find opportunities and navigate the system, the Land Stewardship Project offers various training sessions with the latest round of classes set to begin this fall.

Olson says the offerings range from a one-time, four-hour "farm dreams" workshop to a beginning farmer training program that runs for 12 months.

"That training program looks at farm planning, financial planning, and marketing," says Olson. "We just added a two-year 'journey-person' course too, which is for folks who have been farming for two to five years and are looking for financial and production support."

Since the Farm Beginnings Program started 17 years ago, more than 650 people have gone through the course, and around 60 percent are still farming. Early registration for this latest round of training, with sites in Minnesota and Western Wisconsin, runs through Friday. Details are available at farmbeginnings.org.

John Michaelson, Public News Service - MN