Lowcountry Local First, in partnership with the College of Charleston’s School of Professional Studies, has opened up the call for applications to the 2018 Growing New Farmers Program. This 6-month program provides experiential, hands-on training at Middleton Place USDA Certified Organic Farm, coupled with curriculum-based instruction in a classroom setting and an optional apprenticeship. Topics range from seed starting, to post-harvest handling, to business planning. The class size will be capped at 30 participants, each earning a minimum of 250 training hours and a Certificate in Sustainable Agriculture through the College of Charleston. Applications are being accepted on a rolling basis now through February 16, 2018.

The Growing New Farmers Program is a program of Lowcountry Local First that began in 2010 in order to train the next generation of farmers and food system leaders. “The average age of the South Carolina farmer today is 60 and, nationally, only six percent of farmers are under the age of 35. The classic inheritance model is disappearing and more people are eager to enter the profession who need to develop their breadth of experience and a network of support. These elements are critical to the success of a new and beginning farmer,” says Brian Wheat, Director of Sustainable Agriculture at Lowcountry Local First.

Lowcountry Local First is addressing the supply-side issues facing the local food system by ensuring there are new farmers and food system leaders entering the market, and that all farmers interested in operating sustainable businesses are provided the tools, training and network to achieve their goals.

Participants are also provided the opportunity to be matched with one of more than 20 qualified local farmers or food system mentors to gain hands-on experience relevant to their interests. The program continues to expand its pool of mentors to offer apprenticeships in areas such as farmers’ market management, urban farming, nursery production, aeroponics, and other related businesses, increasing the diversity of experiences available.

“There are so many opportunities ahead of me now that I had no idea existed. I’ve given my two-weeks notice and am now becoming a farmer,” said participant Tessa Digennaro at the 2017 graduation ceremony this past September.

With 167 graduates to date, past participants have gone on to become active business members in our food system, including Spade and Clover Gardens, Compost in My Shoe, Rooting Down Farms, The Green Heart Project, the Johns Island Farmers Market, Wit Meets Grit, Sunday Brunch Farmers Market, and Murray’s Heirlooms.

Applications are being accepted now through February 16, 2017. The program will begin on March 5 and conclude August 27, with a two-week break in early July. The program cost is $2,000, paid in monthly installments. Limited, income-based financial aid is available via application as well as through Charleston County Farm Bureau Scholarships.

Questions can be sent to Brian Wheat, the Director of Sustainable Agriculture for Lowcountry Local First:

brian@lowcountrylocalfirst.org
843-801-3390

Brian Wheat
Growing New Farmers Program Manager

Director of Sustainable Agriculture