Cheered on by the more than 1,000 attendees at the 20th Anniversary Georgia Organics Conference, four fledgling Georgia farmers celebrated their graduation from Georgia’s Journeyman Farmer Certificate Program, or JFCP, an innovative training program for beginning farmers.
Led by the University of Georgia Cooperative Extension with support from partners across the state, Georgia Organics and UGA Extension helped to provide comprehensive training for beginning farmers designed to reduce the barriers young and beginning farmers face when trying to grow new agricultural businesses from the ground up.
The program aims to support young and beginning farmers to help protect the future of food and fiber in Georgia. Many U.S. farmers, with an average age of 58, are starting to age out of the profession.
“Beginning farmers and ranchers are the key to preserving small farming in the United States, and the Journeyman Farmer Certificate Program is our way of helping to sustain the small farmer’s role in Georgia’s agricultural sector,” said Georgia Organics Farmer Services Coordinator Tenisio Seanima.
Graduates Julie Best of Clayton, Azalea Moss of Austell, Lonnie Edenfield of Toccoa and Martine Olsen of Clarkesville received business training, production training, and either an internship or mentorship, depending on their circumstances.
Moss interned with Truly Living Well in downtown Atlanta. Best interned with Ladybug Farms in Clayton, Georgia. Olsen was mentored by Ed Taylor of Indian Ridge Farm in Clarkesville, Georgia, and Edenfield was mentored by Alex Rilko of Front Field Farm in Winterville, Georgia.
“This program – with its emphasis on business planning, small ruminant production and vegetable farming – was designed to help these farmers turn their passion into a livelihood,” said Julia Gaskin, sustainable agriculture coordinator for the University of Georgia College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences and Journeyman Farmer program coordinator. “We hope this program will help give them the skills they need to support their own families while they follow their hearts.”
JFCP will continue in 2017, providing courses for anyone who has been farming less than ten years continuously in seven counties: Carroll, Screven, Dougherty, Metro Atlanta, Banks, Houston and Greene.
Interested farmers will first attend one of two different trainings for small farm business planning: the AgAware program, run by AgCredit; or Small Farm Business Planning Training, developed in partnership with the UGA Small Business Development Center, the Georgia Department of Agriculture and Georgia Organics.
The next step is production training. Small Fruit and Vegetable Production is a seven-week training developed in partnership with Georgia Organics and the Georgia Fruit and Vegetable Growers Association. Small Ruminant Production is a six-week training developed by Fort Valley State University in partnership with UGA Extension.
The trainings are followed by internships or mentorships with existing farmers in Georgia.
Visit tinyurl.com/GO-JFCP for more details about the Journeyman Farmer Certificate Program, and click through to extension.uga.edu for more information about the ways UGA Extension supports Georgia’s farmers.