Metro-East News

Farm Beginnings is looking for a few good farmers

Interested in farming, but don’t know how to proceed?

Southern Illinois Farm Beginnings is a program that may interest you. Administered by Food Works, in Carbondale, its mission is to create and to help sustain farmers in the metro-east.

“A lot of people get started farming and don’t get the business side of it,” said Kathleen Logan Smith, program coordinator for Food Works. “But if you learn to do that, we find that farmers can become more sustainable (and) quit their day jobs sooner.”

The first class in the Belleville area is accepting 15 farms, and there can be up to two people representing each farm. The application and $50 fee are due Oct. 12, and it costs “$975 for people for whom that’s not a problem,” Smith said.

“We go out of our way to make sure people who need the class can take the class; work on payment plans, scholarships,” she said. “We understand beginning farmers don’t have a lot of cash around.”

The class will spend 48 hours from October to February in seminars focusing on marketing management and business practices. Classes with the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), Illinois extension offices, accountants and more will meet in Belleville and Millstadt on Saturdays.

A formal mentorship starts with the growing season, about March through November, Smith said, and usually continues well past that.

“Because farmers are just awesome people, that’s why.”

The class has been held in Carbondale since 2011, and is offered in 11 regions of the country. Smith said all kinds of people take the class, from those who have a family history of farming and expect to inherit land to those who are hoping to lease land.

“Either you leave (the class) with a viable plan you take to the bank, or you leave with a plan of what you’re going to do next,” Smith said.

Get started

  • Apply at http://www.fwsoil.org/farm-beginnings.html
  • Call or email Kathleen Logan Smith, Southern Illinois Farm Beginnings program coordinator and facilitator at 618-370-3287 ext. 101 or kathleen@eatsouthernillinois.org.
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