The Wisconsin School for Beginning Market Growers, a three-day workshop for people interested in starting a fresh market vegetable farm, will be offered January 14-16 on the UW-Madison campus.
Demand for local and organic food has grown rapidly since the school was first offered 13 years ago, and so has the number of farmers' markets, community-supported agriculture farms, and stores, restaurants, hospitals and schools seeking locally produced vegetables. While this demand has created opportunities for aspiring fresh market growers, it does not ensure a profitable or enduring business, says John Hendrickson, the school's coordinator.
"That's where the School for Beginning Market Growers comes in," says Hendrickson. "Our intensive workshop provides a comprehensive look at what it takes to start and operate a business growing and selling fresh vegetables. We want people to not only learn how to grow food, but also how to make smart decisions about marketing, pricing, capitalization and labor."
The program emphasizes organic production methods and direct marketing. Participants will learn about fertility management, greenhouse use, season extension, pest management, equipment needs, planning and budgeting. Instructors for the course include veteran market growers as well as UW faculty and staff.
While practical know-how is the cornerstone of the course, past participants have said that the most useful aspects were hearing the real-life stories of experienced growers and being able to network with peers who share their interest in making a business out of growing and selling fresh produce.
The School for Beginning Market Growers is sponsored by the UW-Madison Center for Integrated Agricultural Systems. Registration for the program costs $300. Enrollment is limited, so early sign-ups are advised. For more information, contact John Hendrickson at (608) 265-3704 or [email protected], or visit the CIAS web site: www.cias.wisc.edu.