Course moving to Prairie Fruits Farm

Course moving to Prairie Fruits Farm

CHAMPAIGN — A program that helps new farmers plan sustainable farming ventures is moving to Champaign-Urbana.

Central Illinois Farm Beginnings, a full-year farmer training course, will begin its ninth year at the Prairie Fruits Farm and Creamery on Lincoln Avenue north of Urbana.

"We are excited about the on-farm location and accessing the considerable expertise" of Prairie Fruits Farm owners Wes Jarrell and Leslie Cooperband, said Cara Cummings, executive director of The Land Connection, which operates the Central Illinois Farm Beginnings program. "This will allow prospective and beginning farmers the opportunity to engage in hands-on learning and to experience a diverse sustainable farming enterprise."

Plus, the new location will allow the program to take full advantage of the local foods community in Champaign-Urbana, including Common Ground Food Co-op, the Urbana farmers' market and the University of Illinois.

The last two years, the course met in Bloomington, and before that, it was offered in Springfield and Lexington, said Terra Brockman, founder of The Land Connection.

The Central Illinois Farm Beginnings course includes eight Saturday seminars on business planning, a series of on-farm field days and customized mentorships with area farmers.

The seminars involve farmers and other experts who help the students with their business planning and marketing planning.

Veteran farmers have shared their experiences ranging from intensive rotational grazing to commercial vegetable production, course facilitator Emma Lincoln said.

Brockman said the goal is to have students from 20 to 30 prospective farming operations in this year's class. Previous classes have typically had students from 12 to 20 prospective enterprises.

Since 2005, Central Illinois Farm Beginnings has graduated 173 people interested in sustainable farming. More than two-thirds of them are currently farming, with the aim of fulfilling the demand for high-quality, locally grown food.

Applications are being accepted for the 2013-14 program through Aug. 30. Tuition is ordinarily $1,250, but those who register before Aug. 10 get a $125 discount. Partial scholarships may also be available. An online application and more information about the program can be found at http://central.illinoisfarmbeginnings.org.

For people interested in farming but not quite ready to apply for the full-year course, The Land Connection is offering an evening course, "Is Entrepreneurial Farming for You?" from 5:30 to 8:30 p.m. Aug. 8 at Common Ground Food Co-op in Urbana.

Registration for that course is $20 per couple and includes a light supper. Registration ends Aug. 6. More information is available at http://www.thelandconnection.org in the "Training Farmers" section.

Sections (2):News, Business
Topics (2):Education, Food

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