Graduates of MSU’s Organic Farmer Education Program Develop Their Farming Vision

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EAST LANSING, MI. – Congratulations to 19 beginning farmers for earning their organic farming certification from Michigan State University Student Organic Farm, MSU Horticulture Department, and MSU Center for Regional Food Systems. Their plans range from expanding their current farms, homesteads or educational gardening programs to starting businesses that grow vegetables, livestock, fruits, herbal medicines and more. Many are also dedicated to bringing about change in their communities as gardening educators, non-profit advocates, or by integrating education, conservation practices, food donations, or other community connections. in their agricultural plans.

In the 2021 cohort, three participants found land during the organic farmer training program, six own farms or agricultural businesses, two work on their family farms, six are farm laborers or farm managers and many actively garden, farm or volunteer on farms in their communities.

Congratulations to the 2021 graduates!

• Brian Johnson invites you to “imagine a beautiful orchard” that brings military veterans and returned citizens together on a farm where they can grow food and heal themselves.

• Carly Talsma found land during the organic farmer training program. She will lease land near Ypsilanti, Michigan, to grow vegetables and flowers starting in 2022.

• Curtis Pratt found land during the organic farmer training program. He owns Do-Vine Landscaping and operates several lots in Lansing, Michigan.

• Heather Munro has just moved to Oregon to learn skills in a new climate before starting her own farm focusing on medicinal herbs, herbal products and education. She worked for Cardinal Farms, a graduate of the Organic Farmer Training Program, during the program.

• Hope Lovell is working with her township for approval of an agricultural development, combining small homes with access to farmland, shared agricultural infrastructure and community.

• Jacob Cohen owns Vested Goat Farm where he and his partner raise goats, other livestock, vegetables, an orchard and mushrooms.

• James Miller McComish is an avid gardener and artist looking for land where he can combine his passion for sustainable living, farming, building, woodworking and art into a viable homestead.

• Jessica Mazzoli found land during the organic farmer training program. She partners with her sister and the owner of Raven Oaks Farm to grow vegetables for a farm stand and CSA (community supported agriculture).

• Julia Majewski worked at Blandford Nature Center Farm and plans to start a small farm on family land before moving on to her own farm.

• Katherine Sampson hosted neighbors weekly at her new learning gardens and plans to expand her partnerships with schools and offer garden day camps to local youth in the coming years.

• Melissa Holahan is a veterinarian and owner of Chubb E. Acres Farm, a mixed goat, dairy and livestock farm specializing in animal husbandry, beekeeping and teaching veterinary students.

• Michelle Adams is actively seeking land and hopes to start a farm with a community-friendly farm store.

• Miles Wood works at New City Urban Farm and partners with other BIPOC growers to access land for a collaborative farm in Grand Rapids, Michigan.

Mollie Phukan plans to launch an agricultural kitchen incubator project in southeast Michigan.

• Remi Harrington and Zoo City Farm connect BIPOC farmers with land in Kalamazoo, Michigan, and collaborate to grow and market healthy food in the city.

• Russell Peacock works on access to food from farm to fork. He works on his family farm, at Blackbird Farm, as a produce manager at a grocery store and volunteers with food pantries.

• Sean Gies and his father grow vegetables and restore a meadow on the family farm.

• Another graduate has worked at Undertoe Farm and Leelanau Specialty Cut Flowers and plans to start a cut flower farm on family land. It will donate part of its profits to conservation projects.

• Another graduate partners with an urban farm to manage vegetable production and run several of his own business ventures on their site.

Each graduate learned skills and developed plans for their own unique farm, including writing a farm business plan that matches their values, goals, land and community needs. They visited 22 sustainable farms throughout Michigan and learned through more than 75 hours of hands-on activities at the 15-acre student organic farm.

The learning themes of the organic farmer training program included sustainable approaches to agricultural production, with topics such as soils, weeds, insect pests, conservation, season extension, food safety , irrigation and tractors and equipment. Participants also learn how to start and manage a viable business through topics such as access to land, agricultural loans, marketing, finance and labor management.

Apply now at canr.msu.edu/organic_farmer_training_program/about/apply-now to join beginning farmers, homesteaders, educational gardeners, and food system changemakers in the Organic Farmer Training Program cohort every Monday from March to November. The Organic Farmer Training Program is a 50/50 mix of hands-on and classroom learning at the 15-acre MSU Student Organic Farm. Participants will learn by growing food, visiting more than 20 sustainable farms, and writing a farm business plan that matches their values, goals, land, and community needs.

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