The LSU AgCenter is launching an initiative to train small- and medium-scale farmers who are new to the business.
The Grow Louisiana Beginning Farmer Training Program is funded by a nearly $590,000 U.S. Department of Agriculture grant. It will target those with 10 or fewer years of farming experience.
“This is a great opportunity to grow more farmers in Louisiana,” said AgCenter horticulture professor Carl Motsenbocker, who is the principal investigator for the project. “We need more Louisiana farmers in order to supply products into local and regional food systems. There is definitely an unmet demand for local horticulture products.”
AgCenter horticulture specialist Kiki Fontenot and agriculture economist Maria Bampasidou are co-principal investigators. Collaborators on the project include SPROUT NOLA, MarketUmbrella and the Acadiana Food Alliance.
The Grow Louisiana program will offer an intensive one-year training course to at least 12 farmers per year for three years.
Classes in the first and third year will be in New Orleans, focusing on farmers there and on the north shore. Farmers in southwest and central Louisiana can participate in the second year in Lafayette.
“The focus of the program is horticulture as well as business practices to ensure the long-term viability of the participants,” Motsenbocker said.
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Students will attend classroom lessons taught by AgCenter personnel and farmers and take part in hands-on activities, farm tours, demonstrations and field days. They will be paired with experienced farmers for mentoring.
The program also will serve as a valuable avenue for networking, Motsenbocker said.
The grant also will enable the development of a Collaborative Regional Alliance for Farmer Training, or CRAFT, in Louisiana. CRAFTs, which can be found in other states, are organizations made up of farmers who volunteer to train those with less experience.
For information on signing up for the Grow Louisiana program, contact Motsenbocker at 225-578-1036 or CMotsenbocker@agcenter.lsu.edu.