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NEW ILLINOIS FARMERS PROGRAM ACCEPTING APPLICATIONS FOR THIRD SESSION
Source: University of Illinois news release

Aspiring Illinois farmers, new growers with less than five years' experience, commodity farmers interested in diversifying to include fruit or vegetable production, and high school and community college agriculture teachers are invited to apply now for the next session of a free training program offered through the University of Illinois crop sciences department.

"Preparing a New Generation of Illinois Fruit and Vegetable Farmers" opened the application process for its third session on July 1. The application period will be open through October 24, 2014, or until capacity is reached. Participants can apply for the program at http://www.newillinoisfarmers.org/new_generation_app.php. There is no fee for participants who complete the program.

The program, which features classroom, hands-on, and in-field instruction on essential skills and information, is offered at three locations in Illinois: the UIUC campus in Urbana, U of I's Dixon Springs Agricultural Center in Simpson, and at the Kane County U of I Extension office in St. Charles. Classes for this session will be held one Saturday a month at each location from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., running December 2014 through November 2015.

A Spanish language program is also offered through a partnership with the Illinois Migrant Council. Mary Hosier, project manager for the program, said that the format of the Spanish program will be tailored to the needs of the participants at each location, which will likely include four months of instruction from start to finish with shorter meetings on weeknights and a few, extended "hands-on" field trips, she said. Sites will be determined based on enrollment. Sites last year for the Spanish language program included Harvard, Kanakee, and Anna.

U of I crop sciences professor Rick Weinzierl and co-workers received a grant from the Beginning Farmer-Rancher Development Program of the National Institute of Food and Agriculture, USDA, to implement the three-year project to provide education to aspiring Illinois farmers. The first session started in fall of 2012.

Hosier said because the program has become more popular, enrollment has become more competitive. There are a limited number of spaces in the program, and Hosier added that applicants are encouraged to provide as much information about themselves and their interest in the program on the additional comments section of their online application.

While there is no fee for the program if the participant attends at least 10 of the 12 sessions, those who enroll but do not complete the program are asked to give their deposit to a local food bank, Hosier said.

Topics to be covered in the program include:

Land acquisition and transfer

Business planning

Legal issues

Insurance

Marketing

Farm safety

Food safety

Farm to School

Equipment operation and safety

Transplant production

High tunnel construction and operation

Irrigation

Soils and soil testing

Cover crops and tillage

Variety evaluations

Pest and disease scouting

Integrated pest management

Pesticide application

Pruning and thinning

Harvest practices

Postharvest handling

Conventional and organic production methods

The program will also include visits to established produce farms, discussions with experienced farmers, and access to incubator plots.

For more information, drop by the Illinois New Farmer's booth under the tent at this year's U of I Agronomy Day on August 14 or visit them on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/NewIllinoisFarmers.


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