Dakota Rural Action is offering its third Farm Beginnings course starting November 5 in Sioux Falls. The program aims to help folks get into farming or transition their current farm operations to sustainable farming practices. Farm Beginnings participants go to class a couple Saturdays a month from November to March, then get out in the field from April to August for farm tours, skill sessions, and, for those ready to drop the plow and plant, mentoring.
Now note: Farm Beginnings isn't some big top-down program meant to turn you into an industry lobbyist. Farm Beginnings is farmer-led, hands-in-the-dirt training in practical, low-cost farming practices. Recognizing that the current farm population is aging rapidly, this program aims to replace that workforce by putting more family farms into business.
The course costs $1500. Two out of three Farm Beginnings graduates who are farming report seeing their income grow. The average net income increase, according to DRA, is $12,500. That boost could pay for you and seven neighbors to take the course and buy lunch. But if you need help up front covering tuition, you can arrange a monthly payment plan for the tuition, or apply for a scholarship.
Course and scholarship apps are due September 30, so hop to it!
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Political Note: Farm Beginnings is made possible by a two-year $132,200 federal grant from Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program of the National Institute of Food and Agriculture. Stephanie Herseth Sandlin sponsored legislation to create this program. You can read NIFA's Outcomes 2010 report online. You may have difficulty getting NIFA's Outcomes 2011 report next year, since Rep. Kristi Noem voted to cut $217.1 million from NIFA's budget... although Rep. Noem probably has no idea she did that.