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Illinois program offers assistance to new Illinois produce farmers

A program available to new fruit and vegetable farmers is designed to give producers tools they need to grow and market produce.  “Preparing a New Generation of Illinois Fruit and Vegetable Farmers” is a year-long program offering sessions one Saturday a month. Participation is free to those who attend at least 10 of the 12 sessions. 

The program’s project manager, Mary Hosier, says that they are reaching out to growers who are looking to sell the produce they grow.

“We are not interested in training master gardeners to be better gardeners.  There are other programs for that,” said Hosier.  “This is for people who want to grow fruits and vegetables and sell them in Illinois.”

Farmers without land are given incubator plots to begin growing, and Hosier tells Brownfield the sessions cover everything beginning growers need to know.

“They are learning from experts on a wide variety of topics from land acquisition, business planning, food safety, transplant production, soils, variety evaluations, pest management,” Hosier told Brownfield Ag News.  “We cover conventional and organic methods, although our focus is on being sustainable.”

The program is open to anyone with less than 5 years’ of growing experience, farmers looking to diversify with fruits and vegetables, community garden managers, and high school and vocational agriculture teachers.  The sessions will be held at the UIUC campus in Urbana, University of Illinois’ Dixon Springs Agiruculture Center in Simpson, and at the Kane County U of I Extension Office in St. Charles.  Applications for the program can be found at  http://newillinoisfarmers.org/new_generation_app.php  

The program’s website and more information can be found here.

AUDIO: Mary Hosier (5:00) mp3

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