Getting an Agriculture Education at the Farm School

From growing broccoli to developing a business plan, the farm school helped us hatch a plan.

| May/June 2011

My husband, Alan, and I wanted to become farmers. We wanted to make our livelihood growing food for a community and spend our future working a vegetable garden and tending animals. Overwhelmed and unsatisfied with the current industrial agriculture system, we were looking for a way to do something positive, to become a part of a sustainable future. That future was going to involve growing food. Inspired and passionate, we had only one problem: We didn’t know how to farm.

Perhaps that’s not entirely true. Alan had spent a season working as an intern on a family farm in Vermont, and I had done some work exchanges for produce at a few different farms, but our skills were limited. We knew enough to know that we liked farming, but if there was any way our dream was going to become a reality, a farm-based education would be of paramount importance.

Making the connection

After spending some quality time with the sustainable farm internship database on ATTRA, (the National Sustainable Agriculture Information Service website), we discovered the Greenbank Farm Training Center (GFTC) on Whidbey Island in Washington State’s Puget Sound. Its eight-month training program looked perfect, so we applied and were accepted.

The Greenbank Farm Training Center’s description fit our situation to a T. “Our program is designed for participants who, through experience, are committed to pursuing a career in sustainable agriculture and desire a formal and thorough academic and experiential education in the business and production aspects of small-scale sustainable farming.” Alan and I were looking for exactly that. Into the car our work pants went, and thus began the drive west from our home state of Wisconsin.

A large, bare field greeted us upon arrival. No cover crop. No fence. Almost no infrastructure. This field (it was too much of a struggle to call it a farm) was a five-acre parcel of land that the Greenbank Farm Training Center had leased from the publicly owned Greenbank Farm, a 500-acre historic loganberry farm located in the town of Greenbank. The GFTC was beginning its second season, and only a small portion of the field had been cultivated the year before. Our work would create this farm from the ground up. It was the perfect project for a bunch of young people dreaming about starting their own farms someday.

The eight of us in the program hailed from all over the country and had different farming backgrounds and worldviews, brought together by the desire for the same skill – the skill to grow food in a way that benefits the earth, our communities and ourselves. Sebastian Aguilar, program director and a successful farmer who raised his family by working the earth and growing produce, was prepared to lead us down the path under his superior tutelage.

8/30/2014 2:43:41 AM

Farming sector is a profitable business and making a career in this is really good. One can get success in this career field by having sufficient and updated knowledge about this. Our science and agriculture department is now so developed and ready to adopt new technology. Training becomes a common part in our agriculture department which is really helpful for all farmers or those who have interest in such field. We also take advices from a well career adviser or coaching as well as training organization.

Erin Kathleen Hanson
12/8/2012 9:22:11 PM

what a wonderful article. Just the information I was looking for. Thank you, Alison.

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