Calling all farmers!
The Upper Peninsula Farm Incubator is now accepting applications for their Apprentice Farmer Program.
If you have ever wanted to start farming independently, but didn’t think you were quite qualified, then the North Farm’s Apprentice Farmer Program may be for you! The Apprentice Farmer Program serves as a launching point for individuals interested in starting their own farming enterprise. This two-year residential program provides farming entrepreneurs with the necessary tools and assistance needed to ensure a solid start to their farming career.
The Upper Peninsula of Michigan has long struggled with food security issues due to regional isolation challenges and limited climate access to fresh, local nutrient-rich food. The Michigan State University Upper Peninsula Research and Extension Center’s North Farm Incubator is trying to overcome those challenges by educating and providing resources to the next generation of farmers that want to supply local, nutrient dense food to the U.P. region. Barriers such as access to land, equipment and seasonal extension technologies (hoophouses, etc.) can all impede entry into farming.
The Apprentice Farmer Program provides their apprentices with ¼ acre of land in year one and ½ acre of land in year two. They are also given access to farm equipment, tools, cold storage, washing and packing facilities in exchange for the program fee and a little bit of sweat equity back to the overall program. Affordable on-site housing is also available and apprentice farmers are encouraged to avail themselves of this opportunity to truly be a resident on the land. In addition, Farm Manager, Collin Thompson, will provide mentorship to the apprentice farmers on business planning, marketing and managing. Thompson, also a Community Food System educator through Michigan State University Extension, brings an extensive set of skills including farming, hoophouse production and direct marketing. Apprentice farmers will grow crops alongside a talented farm staff and their peers, sharing ideas, techniques and labor.
The primary goal of the program is to produce a cohort of 3 new farmers every year that have developed business plans, established accounts, built capital and fine-tuned their skills so that they can begin farming independently and begin to provide local food to U.P. markets. “This program is working to lessen the barriers to new farmers in the U.P., in an environment that promotes an agrarian entrepreneurial spirit. “We hope to recruit three new apprentices each year, which will support a thriving farming community in the Upper Peninsula,” said Thompson. The program in part is supported by the United States Department of Agriculture and the National Institute of Food and Agriculture’s, who together have created the Agriculture and Food Research Initiative.
More information about the program, including application, program fees and the program handbook can be found on the North Farm Website.