Farm Beginnings® scheduled in Nebraska for 2017.

Nebraska Extension is planning its 9th Farm Beginnings® Program at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln Kimmel Education and Research at 5985 G Rd, Nebraska City, NE 68410 in January, 2017. Nebraska Extension and the Nebraska Sustainable Agriculture Society are facilitating the Farm Beginnings® Program to be held in Nebraska City. The Farm Beginnings® Program is an educational training and support program designed to help people who want to evaluate and plan their farm enterprise.  Farm Beginnings® participants engage in a mentorship experience and network with a variety of successful, innovative farmers; attend practical, high quality seminars, field days and conferences.  The program is unique in that several successful farmers participate in the program as presenters, explaining firsthand the nuts and bolts of their farming operation.  While this isn’t a program for someone wanting to get into conventional farming, it is a program that has attracted several people interested in farming on a smaller scale, some who have migrated out from urban to rural areas.  One past participant in the class said, “This program had a huge impact.  I have improved my business plan, my overall efficiency and continue to try new ideas I thought to not be possible.”  Any beginning farmer would benefit from attending these training sessions.  Most of the farmers that present come from small to medium sized farming operations that produce and market many different diversified and value-added products.  Many of these farmers direct market their products.

Participants of this course may be interested in becoming involved with growing alternative crops, producing fruits and vegetables for direct sale to consumers, grocery stores or restaurants.  Others may be interested in growing livestock for direct marketing.  This is an opportunity for people interested in learning about this type of farming from farmers that are doing it and making a living at it.

The Farm Beginnings® Program consists of a series of 11 sessions from January through April that cover a variety of topics including: building networks, goal setting, whole farm planning, building your business plan, marketing, business and farm management and financial management.  While the class participants will learn firsthand from the farmers, they will also work on developing their own business plan as they progress through the course.  As part of the class tuition, participants will also have the opportunity to attend the Nebraska Sustainable Agriculture Society’s Healthy Farms Conference held during the winter in 2017. This is a conference that has been held annually for a number of years and has sessions that focus on topics in sustainable agriculture, such as: vegetable production, grass-fed beef, pasture poultry, meat and dairy goat production, composting, cover crops, organic farming, growing crops in high-tunnels, bee keeping, farm transitioning and agri-tourism.  We also schedule a farm tour early in the course and tour several farms in the summer to see how the farmers are operating.  If interested, participants also have the opportunity to have a farmer mentor.

Cost of the total program is $500, but you may qualify for a partial scholarship of up to $200. For a brochure and an application for the Farm Beginnings® Program go to http://extension.unl.edu/statewide/nemaha/farm-beginnings-2017/. Contact Gary Lesoing, Extension Educator at glesoing2@unl.edu or at (402) 274-4755, Nebraska Extension in Nemaha County to learn more about the program or if you have questions.

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One of the presenters in the class is Ralph Tate.  Ralph took the first Farm Beginnings® in 2005-2006. He has since become a certified Holistic Management instructor and practices mob grazing on his farm.  He teaches participants about Holistic Management principles and also financial management in class.  In the summer we visit Ralph’s farm and rotational grazing system near Fairbury, NE.  Here is a photo of Ralph explaining his pasture management system.

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Another presenter at our class is Dave Welsch. He is an organic farmer from Milford, NE.  He and his wife Deb direct market beef and also several hundred broilers every summer. We usually tour Dave and Deb Welsch’s West Blue Farm each summer.  Here we are viewing their cattle herd in their rotational grazing system.  Dave is an excellent teacher and also discusses farm finances and cash flows in the class.  Deb Welsch has served as a mentor for several women that are involved in sustainable agriculture.

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A couple of other farmers that present in our class are Travis Dunekacke and Paul Rohrbaugh, both from southeast Nebraska. The photo above shows Travis on the left and Paul speaking to a group as we tour his farm near Steinauer, NE. Paul was instrumental in getting the Farm Beginnings® program started in Nebraska.  He served as co-facilitator with me for the first couple of classes we had here in Nebraska.  Paul raises naturally produced grass-fed beef and also pasture poultry.  The name of his company is Pawnee Pride Meats.  Travis Dunekacke produces heritage swine on his farm near Elk Creek, NE. He sells most of his swine directly to several restaurants in Lincoln and Omaha and other places in southeast Nebraska.  He works very closely with developing relationships with several chefs in the area. Both Paul and Travis discuss marketing to the class.

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A photo of Travis Dunekacke’s swine operation (T D Niche Pork) .  These hogs are being raised to be sold to one of several local chefs that will serve this pork in their local restaurants in Nebraska. Berkshires are the primary breed Travis raises, although he does raise some Red Wattles when a chef requests them.

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A farm we usually tour in the summer and also have them speak to us as part of the class room portion of the Farm Beginnings® course, is Common Good Farm.  Either Ruth Chantry or Evrett Lundquist will come and speak to the class about their organic and biodynamic farming operation near Raymond, NE. The photo above was taken when we toured their farm with the class.  As you can see Common Good Farm raises a variety of vegetable crops on their farm and also produces and sells, eggs, beef, pork and honey as part of their operation.  Common Good Farm explains all the important details involved in planning on their farm.  They have also had interns work on their farm over the years.

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Our class has toured Bluff Valley Farm near Rulo, NE near the Missouri River.  Ken and Mary Grace Thiltges and their family produce and market naturally produced meat on their farm.  Pastured poultry and lamb are two of their more well known products.  The photo above shows Ken, with the brown hat on, explaining their operation and showing some pastured turkeys that they are producing for Thanksgiving.

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This photo is of Ken, with the brown hat and Mary Grace, just to his right, showing the tour their flock of sheep.  They have marketed some of their lamb through the Good Fresh Local Program to the University of Nebraska where it is used in a couple of the cafeterias on campus. The Thiltges have also sold their products at farmers markets, from their own on-farm store  and through the Nebraska Food Coop.

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This is a photo of the flock of Rhode Island Red chickens that Daniel Hromas had when he started his egg laying operation, renting an acreage near York. Dan graduated from the Farm Beginnings® class a few years ago after returning from serving in Iraq.  Dan is a disabled veteran and has worked with the Veteran’s Coalition when he started his farm. He has since been able to buy a farm on the edge of Grand Island where he moved his operation. Dan has served as a spokes person for the Veteran’s Coalition. Dan will be featured in this blog of local food producers in the near future. He is just one of several Farm Beginning graduates® that are producing local food for consumers at some level. To find out more about this program contact me at glesoing2@unl.edu or (402) 274-4755.

          

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