University of Georgia Cooperative Extension is set to offer a second year of the Journeyman Farmer training for beginning and young farmers this August.
This multi-session crash course in business planning, vegetable and fruit production, or goat and sheep husbandry provides those thinking about starting a farm and those who are new to farming with the solid foundation they need to build their business. Participants also have the opportunity for a Hands-on training to gain farm experience.
Farmers who complete the entire training will receive a Journeyman Farmer Certificate, signifying that they have completed coursework in business planning, production training and hands-on training.
"Many of the young people interested in farming don't come from a farming background," said Julia Gaskin, director of UGA's Sustainable Agriculture Program. "We have been very interested in developing a comprehensive training program to help this group and those currently farming that want to improve their operations."
This is the second year that the partnership has offered this training. The 2015 class provided training to 60 farmers from 11 counties.
“I found the course very helpful in starting up my farming business,” said Ellis Lamme, a Lawrenceville small farmer and president of the Upper Ocmulgee River Resource, Conservation, Development Council. “Take the time to better you farming business knowledge with this course. Your green thumb will get greener.”
The partnership hopes to expand the number of farmers served this year by conducting the trainings throughout the state, including Screven Co, Carroll Co, Dougherty Co and in metro Atlanta. Registration for this low-cost training opportunity is open now, so check with you county agent in these areas. Participants need to register before the business training classes in August to be eligible for their Journey Farmer certificate.
The first step of the training program is small farm business planning. The UGA Small Business Development Center — a unit of the Office of Public Service and Outreach — and AgSouth Farm Credit will provide business planning and financing workshops to the farmers.
After completing the small farm business training, participants can enroll in the production training offered in their area, choosing Small Fruit and Vegetable Production or Small Ruminants Production. These production areas were chosen because there is demand for these crops and to help beginning farmers start farming on small parcels of land.
"Goat production is an ideal enterprise for beginning farmers because of (growing) demand for goat meat in the United States and because they do not require an intensive system," Dr.Tom Terrill, part of the of FVSU team led by Dr. Niki Whitley, said. "Goats can utilize brush, broadleaf weeds and grasses on marginal land and still be productive." Dr. Whitley also heads up the Hands-on Training which will allow beginning farmers to gain experience on a working farm.
Georgia Organics is leading the Hands-on Training for farmers interested in small fruit and vegetable production that will offer internships and/or mentoring experiences.
The University of Georgia College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences, UGA Small Business Development Center, Georgia Organics, the Georgia Fruit and Vegetable Growers Association, Fort Valley State University and AgSouth Farm Credit, along with other partners, are developing the training and mentorship program to help beginning farmers become sustainably successful farmers.
This Journeyman Farmer program is funded by a 2016 U.S. Department of Agriculture Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Grant. For more information about Georgia's Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program, see SustainAgGA.org.
(Merritt Melancon is a news editor with the University of Georgia College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences.)