For New Farmers
I want to learn more about farming. Where can I go to get information and experience?
There is lots of information out there about farming. Farming experience is a bit harder to come by. Every new and developing farmer has his or her own unique set of learning needs and requirements. A formal course may or may not be a useful way to get information. The best way to get experience is by working on a farm, but spending the season on a farm is not possible for some people. The challenge is to match your information and experience needs with a format that works for you.
Here are some things to think about:
There are apprentice programs that provide on-farm experiences. Some programs and some farms are more oriented toward teaching and mentoring than others. There are several mentoring networks, specializing in on-farm learning, in the Northeast.
- Educational institutions such as colleges and universities, some community colleges and vo-ag high schools offer formal learning settings. It is not always necessary to be enrolled as a student to take a course. Non-profit farm education and support organizations provide many kinds of informative programs.
There are books, journals and other publications, courses, workshops, and websites on a wide variety of subjects related to farming. Extension Educators, farm consultants and other professionals offer technical assistance.
- While there is much to learn from gaining experience on other farms, some of what needs to be learned can only take place when you start doing it yourself with your own finances and resources.
Here is a sample of resources:
Operating a Profitable Small Farm fact sheets from Maryland Cooperative Extension.
Join NEWOOF, NESFI's chapter of World Wide Workers on Organic Farms, which offers apprenticeship listings.
Information on apprentice programs is available through ATTRA: Appropriate Technology Transfer for Rural Areas.
The Penn State College of Agricultural Sciences has a huge selection of fact sheets and other print resources on line.
NOFA Massachusetts maintains a listing of apprenticeship opportunities, both in state and national.