Farmer Incubation Program

UGC’s farmer training program is a hybrid business-training course that allows participants to learn the hands on fundamentals of farming, while simultaneously developing their business plan. The course will be a series of daylong, weekend seminars with benchmarks completed between sessions by participants. The format of the program supports both new program participants and ongoing development. Participation in all workshops is mandatory.

Our Goal: “To provide new and emerging farmers and ranchers with hands-on training in intensive urban agriculture production, post-harvest handling and wholesale volume, business and marketing planning, and long-term mentoring support to improve and develop farm operation viability, and as a foundation in promoting food security in food desert communities.”

The Farmers for Chicago Program provides an opportunity for active participation and learning to support the training and development of new farmers, regardless of skill level. Each session has a strong hands-on training and classroom session to support development goals, and to make each vision a workable business plan, to eventually make a new urban farm a reality. Please come prepared for field work with weather appropriate attire.

This practical adult education-training program is designed to assure that participants have the tools to begin their urban farming project when the training concludes. One-on-one advising is part of the program, both as participants work between sessions to develop your farming plan and at the conclusion of the formal program. This program is designed for those individuals who are serious and ready to contribute to the food system in their communities as members of the farming profession, and is designed to provide support and coaching to complete a viable plan. Our expectation is that participants complete their work between sessions and come prepared.

Structure

Each session will focus on a seasonal skill set and will provide opportunities for trainees to learn how to farm. This will be complemented by classroom learning and discussion to prepare participants to complete a realistic plan. Each session will include site visits and opportunities to connect with urban farmers, buyers, restaurateurs, funders and investors.

First year participants will be selected after presenting a project plan on a contingency basis. Attendance at all workshops, upkeep of farm plot, and participation will determine expansion of farm space after year-one.

Cost of Training: 

  • $500.00 and 100 hours of farm support work share, OR
  • $1700 total program cost without work share option

Click here to download the program application and apply.

*Space is limited. Applications will be reviewed and accepted in the order they are received.


Workshop Schedule:

Session 1: Project Visioning & Crop Planning
Saturday, February 17th, 8:30am – 5:00pm

Session 2: Greenhouse Production: Seeding, Transplanting & Marketing Crops
Saturday, March 17th, 8:30am – 4:00pm

Session 3: Dismantling Racism in the Food System – Intensive Leadership Training
April TBD: Friday, 1:00pm-5:00pm; Saturday, 8:30am-5:00pm; Sunday, 9:00am-12:00pm

Session 4: Grow Your Farm: Learn to “Seed” Crops, Mushrooms & Soil
Saturday, June 9th, 8:30am – 4:00pm

Session 5: Learn to Harvest, Post-Harvest Handling & Food Safety Practices
Saturday, July 14th, 10:00am – 4:00pm

Session 6: Bee Keeping 101
Saturday, August 11th, 9:00am – 12:00pm

Session 7: Bringing it All Together – Making Sure Your Ends Meet: Season Extension & Farm Financials 101
Saturday, September, 22nd, 9:30am – 4:00pm

Session 8: Final Presentations
Saturday, December 8th, 1:00pm – 4:00pm

 

Workshop Descriptions:

Session 1: The Vision, Seeding Your Future in the Community 
Saturday, February 17, 2018
Bridgeport Art Center, 1200 W. 35th Street (enter at Racine entrance – Dial UGC)

Big vision mapping session; mission & vision statements; defining core values, both personal and commercial; and community engagement. Participants will develop a comprehensive vision of their commercial agriculture endeavor. It is important that participants clearly define the various program elements and economic aspects of their project. Once the big picture is developed, participants will create a project outline that will serve as the blueprint for the business plan to be developed over the year. The process is creative and provides a step-by-step approach to guide the development of a full project plan.

Session 2: Greenhouse Production: Seeding, Transplanting & Marketing Crops
Saturday, March 17, 2018
South Chicago Farm, 8900 S. Green Bay Road

Participants receive hands-on training to learn how to mix soil, seed, harvest, wash and package a variety of crops. Participants engage in-group discussion focused on year-round greenhouse production and marketing strategies to effectively sell products within marketplaces that suit their goals and resources. This information will provide a springboard to begin strategizing how products and services will be sold to generate revenue for the enterprise. Planning value-added products, workshops, sales to restaurants, Community Supported Agriculture, and farmers’ markets will all be explored through small group discussion and a questions and answers session.

Session 3: Dismantling Racism in the Food System – Intensive Leadership Training
April TBD
Bridgeport Art Center, 1200 W. 35th Street (enter at Racine entrance – Dial UGC)

An understanding to dismantling racism principles is critical to the success of any urban agriculture project. This three-day workshop will introduce a framework to better understand how racism and privilege manifests on an individual, cultural and institutional level, as well as provide space to reflect upon ways to create projects that empower low-income and communities of color through sustainable, local agriculture.

We will be discussing recent challenges and opportunities in the food movement world both from a local, in your community, perspective and from the national and international food sovereignty arena. Designed to build a community of leaders who are enabled to take action and provide intensive training and dialogue that facilitates anti-racism, with the hope that leaders take food justice actions in our own programs and neighborhoods.

Session 4: Grow Your Farm: Learn to “Seed” Crops, Mushrooms & Soil
Saturday, June 9, 2018
South Chicago Farm, 8900 S. Green Bay Road

Learn the basics of bed building and seeding your garden, as well as the basics of composting and vermicomposting for your farm.  In the morning, participants will learn how to build growing beds and seed a variety of crops, from broadcasting seeds for salad mix, to learning how to use a professional seeder.  We will learn about “seeding” different varieties of mushrooms including oyster and shiitake varieties.  Fungi doesn’t take up “mushroom” in your garden and can be a fun and tasty addition to your edible landscape.

In the afternoon, we will show participants how to manage a small-scale compost system.  Participants will discuss collection of waste streams in the city or on the farm. We will also teach the basics of vermicomposting and will construct and explain how to maintain a worm bin. The on-farm use of vermicomposting as a fertilizer will be a focus, including how to use it for generating revenue from those who want an excellent, organic fertilizer or compost teas.

Session 5: Learn to Harvest, Post-Harvest Handling & Food Safety Practices 
Saturday, July 14, 2018
South Chicago Farm, 8900 S. Green Bay Road

We will teach best practices for harvesting and post-harvesting crops to ensure both shelf-life and safety for your consumers. Learn how to set up your farm successfully to minimize health risks and to insure quality produce is headed to market. Participants will learn Good Agricultural Practice Standards and record keeping for passing a farm audit.

Session 6: Bee-Keeping 101
Saturday, August 11, 2018
South Chicago Farm, 8900 S. Green Bay Road

We will visit the apiary at our South Chicago Farm and do a routine check of the hives— looking at everything from bee brood and honey production to disease and pests in the hive.  Come prepared to work and prepare hives for full swing summer honey production. Protective gear will be provided to open hives.

Session 7: Bringing it All Together – Making Sure Your Ends Meet: Season Extension & Financials 101
Saturday, September 22, 2018
South Chicago Farm, 8900 S. Green Bay Road

We will begin the day discussing season extension on the farm and demonstrating a variety of techniques. This will be followed by, financial planning, budgets, spreadsheets, grant writing, financing, and small group budget development. We will create a comprehensive operating budget, profit and loss format, and begin to develop financing or grant writing for the business plan. UGC will provide bookkeeping and accounting basics presentation and provide templates for developing the budget.

Session 8: Final Presentations
Saturday, December 8, 2018
Bridgeport Art Center, 1200 W. 35th Street (enter at Racine entrance – Dial UGC)

All participants will prepare a presentation to share with UGC staff and invited guests to share their business plan and achievements over the 2018 season.

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