In the Big River Farms Farmer Education Program, Farmer Participants are exposed to the realities of running an independent farm: not just the work of producing food, but the details of running a successful business. It is a primary goal of the program to encourage farmers to think realistically about the feasibility of running and owning their own farm operation, and ultimately build the skills to run successful small farm enterprises upon graduation.
Starting in January and continuing through the growing season, Farmer Participants attend classes on the topics of production, marketing and operating a farm business. Winter classes are held weekly in St. Paul, while trainings during the growing season are held at Big River Farms or on other nearby farms.
- 8-12 winter class room trainings
- 10 in-field trainings, including field trips to other farms and short skill sessions
- Land to practice growing vegetables that is fenced in and has fertility added
- Use of cleaning and packing facilities and cold storage
- Tractor tillage and water access (with some irrigation supplies)
- Training in organic certification
- Training and networking opportunities at the Emerging Farmers Conference
- Access to additional resources and other infrastructure
- One-on-one meetings and in-field consultation with staff
Staff provides access to resources, such as where to purchase seeds, tools, and other supplies and where to sell your produce. Assistance will be provided in making business goals and how to keep farm records. Staff will also schedule regular visits to your field to answer your questions, provide helpful information and make sure you are on track with your goals. Help is also available in marketing, making connections to other organic farming organizations, and applying for financial assistance for new farmer endeavors.
Big River Farms focuses its land-based training program on immigrant and minority farmers, a population that generally has difficulty accessing the resources needed to establish a successful farm business. However, both winter classes and in-field trainings are open to the public, space permitting.
The Full Land-Based training program includes all classes and individual consultation, land use, and infrastructure use.
Individual classes, either the winter classes or the in-field trainings, are open to the public. Register in advance by contacting KaZoua Berry, Big River Farms Education Manager, by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 651-433-3676 to ensure space is available and that no changes have been made. The fee for attending an individual class is $25.00. Discounts are available if paid in advance for multiple sessions.
As a Farmer Participant, you must be committed to producing vegetables on a market scale, learning the principles and practices of organic farming and learning to manage a farm business in the United States.
How To Apply
Please contact Ka Zoua Berry, Big River Farms Education Manager, by email at [email protected], or by phone at 651-433-3676, if you are interested in the full land-based training program. She can assist you with one or more of the following:
- Scheduling a one-on-one informational meeting.
- Attending a group informational session.
- Attending a winter class to learn more about the program.
Program enrollment takes place October through December, with training classes starting in January.
Ready to enroll? Fill out and submit an application and questionnaire before Dec. 15 to apply for the following season. Once we receive your application, someone from our Education Program will be in touch with you to set up a meeting.
Frequently Asked Questions
Why does the program exist?
So that all people who desire to start their own organic vegetable farming businesses have access to education, land, infrastructure, markets, resources, and connections to meet their goals.
What is included in the program?
The Farmer Education Program provides education, land, infrastructure, and access to markets for beginning farmers. What is offered varies by each program track – see the full program description to learn where to start and what is included.
Am I eligible?
You are eligible for the program if…
- You would like to learn more about operating an organic vegetable farm in Minnesota
- You want to farm commercially (sell what you grow)
- You identify with a group that is historically under-represented in farming (immigrant, refugee, person of color, women, LGBTQ, veteran, low-income, or other)
- You have access to the resources needed to participate (transportation, money for the costs of the program, enough time to meet program requirements)
How do I apply?
- Step 1: Contact our office at 651-433-3676 to find out about upcoming information sessions and classes.
- Step 2: Attend an information session to go over the program details, ask questions, and tour or see a slideshow of the farm. Applications will be available.
- Step 3: Turn in your application to the Farmer Education Program Staff by Dec. 15. Submit your application to Ka Zoua Berry at [email protected] or mail it to Big River Farms, Farmer Education Program, 14220-B Ostlund Trail N, Marine on St Croix, MN 55047.
- Step 4: Our staff will follow up with you to determine if the program is a good fit and with information about what comes next.
Click here to read profiles of our Farmers-in-Training and Graduates.