Monday, May 23, 2011

Support for Beginning Farmers

Traditionally, farming is a family business. Parents pass on land and knowledge to their kids, who pass it on to their kids. But more than ever, there are folks that want to farm that do not come from farming families.

These budding farmers often opt to intern on established farms to glean what they can from experienced farmers over the course of a summer or two. But the intern experience is limited. They only learn from one farm, and they can feel cloistered.

CRAFT (Collaborative Regional Alliance for Farmer Training) is a network of farmers of all ages and experience levels who are interested in continuing their agricultural education. CRAFT offers exposure to a diversity of farm designs and agricultural practices through potlucks, workshops and farm tours. It builds a supportive community of farmers and farmers-in-training, one farm at a time.

The first CRAFT program was founded in upstate New York in 1995. Northwest Lower Michigan CRAFT was designed in 2010 to meet the needs of farm interns or apprentices, but the program is for anyone interested in learning (or teaching) agricultural skills. ISLAND (Institute for Sustainable Living, Art & Natural Design) and the Northern Michigan Small Farm Conference brought the model to here to support the growing network of farmers and farmers-in-training in the region.

The Wells Family Farm will host the next CRAFT farm tour, workshop and potluck at their Elk Rapids farm on June 12. “In 28 years of farming we've never learned as much as when we have visited other sustainable farms. You can read books, magazines and watch videos, but from our experience there is something very special about meeting the farmer on her/his land and seeing their creative ways of doing things.,” says Phyllis Wells.

Anyone interested in farming—interns, beginning farmers, micro-farmers, homesteaders and gardeners—are welcome to attend. For more information, contact Amanda at ISLAND by phone at (231) 480-4515 or by email at

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