; Growing Places: Lessons Learned from 25 Years Helping New Farmers Get Off to the Right Start | Conferences | AgRisk Library


Conference Name Growing Places: Lessons Learned from 25 Years Helping New Farmers Get Off to the Right Start

Beth Holtzman and Mary Peabody


Since 1995, the UVM Extension Women’s Agricultural Network has been offering Growing Places, a pre-business planning class designed to help women launch and grow resilient farm enterprises that meet both their business and quality of life goals. Participants learn about: goal setting and decision making; financial and business management; accessing capital and credit; the basics of marketing agricultural products; and the essential elements of a business plan. Participants who complete course assignments have: engaged in strategic thinking about a farm business; been exposed to all the elements of a first business plan; and, outlined an action plan to advance their farm business planning.

Over 500 individuals have completed the course. Students range in age from early 20s to early 70s, and come with diverse backgrounds and interests. Follow-up evaluations show that within six month of completing the course, approximately 40% of Growing Places “alums” make a decision to start a farm business; approximately 35% make a decision not to pursue farming as vocation, and 25% recognize that they are on a longer planning and preparation trajectory.

Over the years, financial support for Growing Places has come from a variety of funders, and we have partnered with a variety of agricultural and educational organizations. To help make the course more accessible, we have adapted what was initially an in-person, multi-session course into a variety of in-person, online and hybrid formats – to meet the evolving needs and preferences of our learners. Working with partnering organizations, we have adapted components of the curriculum for a variety of audiences, including new Americans (immigrants and refugees) and military veterans. Currently, we most frequently offer the course in a mixed gender setting.

Stop by this poster to learn how we have embedded risk management education in the Growing Places curriculum, and how our participants use what they learn in their farm planning. We’ll also share successes, challenges, and lessons learned over 25 years, including our insights about how “best practices” in meeting the needs of women learners enhances learning across genders.

*Note: We are proposing this as a poster session, but it could be offered as a concurrent workshop session if the committee prefers.