All spots are filled for 2018! Applications for the 2019 season will open mid-August 2018. Please signup for our email list HERE to receive notifications.
Our Beginner Farmer Training Program (BFTP) offers a 12-month immersive training experience that combines a comprehensive classroom curriculum with hands-on learning at some of the region's leading sustainable farms.
- We offer 3 training levels, designed to meet the specific needs of beginning farmers at different stages in their careers.
- All 3 levels of the BFTP are FREE and trainees receive a host of benefits: annual FHCASA membership, free admission to our popular winter conference and year-round field days, and access to a supportive network of new and experienced farmers.
- This is a region-wide program, open to beginning farmers in MD, VA, DE—including the Delmarva Peninsula—and DC, WV, and PA. We offer farmer-to-farmer training opportunities throughout the Chesapeake region, and classroom requirements may be completed in-person or online.
- We offer training in diverse operation types, including: vegetables, fruit, cut flowers, herbs, and livestock at urban, peri-urban, and rural farm settings.
- The program is also designed with built-in scheduling flexibility to allow new farmers to further their training while maintaining their own farms or other work.
Questions? Please email Sarah Sohn, BFTP Director, at: firstname.lastname@example.org
- FHCASA's annual Cultivate the Chesapeake Foodshed conference: Our winter conference (Jan 11-13, 2018) will bring together 800+ people for 3 intensive days of sustainable ag learning, with sessions covering a wide-range of topics on production, the business of farming, community-building, and environmental stewardship.
- 10-week winter workshop series (January-March): Held in partnership with University of Maryland Extension, this series is focused on introducing beginning farmers to key production, marketing, and business planning topics. These workshops are held once a week on Wednesday evenings at the Baltimore County Ag Center in Cockeysville, MD. For trainees located too far to attend in person, we will be offering a webcast option.
- Cultivate Baltimore: For trainees particularly interested in urban farming, they can complete the 8-week Cultivate Baltimore urban farming workshop series in place of the workshops at Cockeysville. Cultivate Baltimore is co-hosted by FHCASA, University of Maryland Extension, Farm Alliance of Baltimore, and Real Food Farm.
- 4 half-day, hands-on days at innovative sustainable farms in the region: Spread throughout spring, summer, and fall, level 1 trainees will get together for a series of half-day, hands-on group trips to diverse sustainable farms around the region. Trainees will engage in hands-on projects such as working on high tunnels, irrigation, basic farm carpentry, field planting, etc. We offer 8 of these (4 in the Central Chesapeake and 4 on the Delmarva); trainees must attend at least 4. Read more about these hands-on days HERE.
- 3 field events of your choice, offered throughout the season: As trainees, you also receive free registration to FHCASA's Foodshed Field School events. Our field events cover a wide range of sustainable farming topics, from selecting the right farm equipment, to managing soil fertility, to making smart business and marketing decisions. Level 1 trainees are required to attend a minimum of 3 field events, but are welcome to attend more.
- Join an online community of discussion and support: Trainees participate in a lively online discussion group, where we share resources (land, equipment, farm job openings, etc.), ask questions (What's this weird bug on my potatoes? This mildew on my squash?), and support each other through the natural ups and downs of the farming season.
- FHCASA's annual Cultivate the Chesapeake Foodshed conference: Jan 11-13, 2018
- 10-week winter workshop series: January to March, once a week on Wednesday evenings
- 8-week Cultivate Baltimore series: alternate workshop series for trainees especially interested in urban farming, Feb to April
- On-farm training: Level 2 trainees are required to complete a minimum of 200 training hours with the farmer they've been matched with. This works out to a minimum of one 8 hour day per week for just over 6 months. Most participants train April-November, but alternate start/end dates are possible, depending upon the flexibility of your particular training farm. A current list of our training farms can be found HERE. If you do not see a farm on the list that's located near you, we encourage you to submit an application nonetheless, as we may be able to locate a new training farm in your area.
- 3 field events of your choice, offered throughout the season: Level 2 trainees are required to attend a minimum of 3 field events, but are welcome to attend more.
- Construct a business plan: Trainees will work with the BFTP Director as well as UMD Extension experts to draft and refine a business plan for their operation.
- Join an online community of discussion and support: Participate in an online discussion group, where we share resources, readings, questions, and successes.
- Farm Startup Mini-Grants: We offer a limited number of Farm Startup Mini-Grants—these are available only for level 2 trainees. There is a maximum award of $1,000 per trainee. The grants are given out at the end of the season, upon an awardee's completion of the full program requirements. The mini-grants are intended to help trainees with the startup costs of their new farm endeavors. Priority for these mini-grants will be made for low-income and socially disadvantaged trainees. In order to be considered for a mini-grant, you MUST submit the grant application along with your Level 2 BFTP application. Links to both are below. Mini-grant determinations are made separately from general admissions decisions to the program.
*Urban Farm Training: We're thrilled to be partnering with the Farm Alliance of Baltimore to bring aspiring urban farmers a training experience designed specifically for their needs. We are working with 5 great Farm Alliance farms located in Baltimore City (see Training Farms). Applicants should complete the general Level 2 application below.
- FHCASA's annual Cultivate the Chesapeake Foodshed conference: Jan 11-13, 2018
- 1-on-1 guidance with an experienced Farmer Consultant: We will pair you with a seasoned Farmer Consultant, someone with many years of experience running a farm in this region. This year-long consultancy is intended to help level 3 trainees navigate issues common to intermediate-level farmers, such as: improving farm systems and finding ways to become more efficient, making critical marketing decisions as your business grows, et. Consultants will both visit your farm in-person and provide support via phone and email. More information on Level 3 Farmer Consultants can be found HERE.
- Advanced 4-part workshop series (optional): UMD Extension has developed a new 4-part workshop series called "Wheels Up", which is designed for beginning farmers with at least 3 years of experience. Advanced business and marketing topics and individualized farm planning exercises are the focus. This series is free to Level 3 trainees and attendance is encouraged, but not required.
- Field events of your choice (optional): Level 3 trainees are encouraged, but not required, to attend field events throughout the year.
- End of season full-day retreat: Attend a full-day retreat at the end of the season (Nov/Dec) to learn from other level 3 trainees and farmer consultants. There will be a facilitator at this meeting, but it's primarily intended as a farmer-to-farmer learning and networking retreat.
- Join an online community of discussion and support: Participate in an online discussion group, a place to share resources, readings, questions, and successes.
*Grazing Consulting: Through partnership with the Maryland Grazers Network, beginning grazers are paired with Grazing Consultants. If you already own and/or manage a farm and are interested in being paired with a Grazing Consultant, please complete the Level 3 application below.