Backed by a nearly $750,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the Kentucky Cooperative Extension is launching a comprehensive training program for beginning farmers and those who are thinking about taking up farming.
Kentucky’s whole farm management education program, A Common Field, is a two-year course that will include face-to-face educational meetings, on-farm demonstrations and a mentor program that will connect beginning farmers with experienced producers. Program organizers are also developing an Internet-based version.
The commonwealth’s two land grant institutions, the University of Kentucky and Kentucky State University, are partnering in the program and will be joined by Kentucky Women in Agriculture and the Kentucky Beef Network.
Lee Meyer, extension professor, and Jennifer Hunter, extension associate in the UK Department of Agricultural Economics, are the co-principal investigators on the grant.
Part of the impetus for the program is the loss of farms through transitions from one generation to the next or through farm failures. In the first year, the course will cover topics such as enterprise evaluation, land-labor resources, nutrient management, farm record keeping, agriculture water quality plans and marketing plans, among others.
During the second year, organizers will connect program participants with mentor farmers who have similar enterprise interests. During this phase, beginning farmers will take the material they learned in the classroom and, with the help of their mentors, put it into practice on their own farms.