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Apprenticeship Programs ‘Help New & Aspiring’ Farmers

Published Thursday, September 3, 2020
by Fred Miller/Special To The Daily Press
Apprenticeship Programs ‘Help New & Aspiring’ Farmers

(FAYETTEVILLE, ARKANSAS) - Those whose hands yearn for the dirt can learn to farm with classroom training and practical experience in two Center for Arkansas Farms and Food Programs (CAFF).

The University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture center launches its first Farm School in January 2021.

The second year of Farm Apprenticeships will begin in the Spring.

Registration for both programs begins this month.

The programs focus on small and mid-sized farms, specialty crop production and local markets in Northwest Arkansas, said Heather Friedrich, who serves as the Program Manager in the Division’s Department of Horticulture.

Both programs are open to anyone from any area of Arkansas.

“We have connections with Farmers in many areas of the state,” Friedrich said.  “Our goal is to increase the number of Farmers and farms in Arkansas, improve farm viability and support our local food systems.”

CAFF uses division research and outreach to support local food entrepreneurs and increases small farm viability.

It is a center of the Division’s Arkansas Agricultural Experiment Station and envisions a vibrant and diverse farm and food economy statewide, Friedrich said.

Division of Agriculture Faculty and Staff manage CAFF Programs in partnership with Northwest Arkansas Food Systems.

“Our ‘goal is also to get local foods on local plates,’” Friedrich said. “That’s ‘good for’ Farmers, ‘and it’s good for consumers.’”

Friedrich said CAFF addresses the need for a new generation of Farmers to feed the state’s growing population.

“The average Farmer in Arkansas is age (57),” she said. “New Farmers entering the field ‘face significant obstacles, including a steep learning curve and access to land.’  CAFF’s ‘goal is to support and expand’ the Arkansas food and farm economy.  These educational and mentoring programs ‘will develop the next generation’ of Arkansas Farmers ‘and help them succeed.’”

The Farm School begins in January and is an 11-month, experiential learning program for beginning Farmers of specialty crops or for those who want to learn how to grow food.

The school includes both classroom curriculum and hands-on experience for integrating production, business and legal issues.

Apprenticeships and outreach events offer continuing education to learn more about the skills needed for successful farming.

Students participate in approximately 350 hours of core knowledge in production, business and legal topics and 700 hours of hands-on field activities, Friedrich said.

They will experience annual cropping systems on .5- and 5-acre scale fields, greenhouse production and perennial fruit production.

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