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Conference Name Training the Next Generation of Farmers in the Sierra Nevada Foothills: Lessons Learned

Cindy Fake and Roger Ingram


With an aging farm population and the loss of generational transfer of agricultural knowledge, training new farmers has become a critical need across the country. University of California Cooperative Extension (UCCE) in Placer and Nevada Counties has developed extensive beginning farmer training over the last decade to meet the needs of a growing number of aspiring producers.
Many beginning farming programs focus on production skills, which can be very important in the immediate farm start-up phase. However, for the long-term economic viability of farms and ranches, helping producers develop business, marketing, and risk management skills is critical. In collaboration with experienced local farmers, we provide training that encompasses these areas as well as production and husbandry skills. We provide an array of workshops, field days, mentoring, and community-building programs to help small-scale beginning farmers and ranchers succeed.
This presentation will report the results of three surveys of training participants over the last decade. Lessons learned include the necessity of addressing the farm as a business and building economic, marketing, and risk management skills in addition to production skills. Training needs to be reality-based, focused on local conditions with real-life examples from the agricultural community. A small-group, collaborative, participatory training approach helps develop realistic expectations and skills without dampening the enthusiasm of beginning farmers. Experienced local producers are an integral part of the training team and programs focus on building community among local farmers.