MSU Organic Farmer Training Program graduates grow their farm vision

Nineteen talented beginning and aspiring farmers gain skills to grow food and community.

Congratulations to 19 beginning farmers for earning their certificate in organic farming from the Michigan State University Student Organic Farm, the MSU Horticulture Department and the MSU Center for Regional Food Systems. Their plans range from expanding their current farms, homesteads or educational gardening programs to building businesses that raise vegetables, livestock, fruit, medicinal herbs and more. Many are also focused on making change in their communities as garden educators, non-profit advocates or by integrating education, conservation practices, food donation or other community connections into their farm plans.

In the 2021 cohort, three participants found land during the Organic Farmer Training Program, six own farms or farm businesses, two are working on their family farms, six are farmworkers or farm managers and many are actively gardening, homesteading or volunteering on farms in their communities.

Congratulations to the 2021 graduates!

  • Brian Johnson invites you to “imagine a beautiful orchard” that brings together military veterans and citizens returning from incarceration on a farm where they can grow food and heal.
  • 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 is farming on several lots in Lansing, Michigan.
  • Heather Munro just moved to Oregon to gain skills in a new climate before starting her own farm focusing on medicinal herbs, herbal products and education. She worked for Organic Farmer Training Program graduate Cardinal Farms during the program.
  • Hope Lovell is working with her township for approval of an agri-hood development, combining tiny 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 who is 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 is partnering with her sister and the owner of Raven Oaks Farm to grow vegetables for a farmstand and CSA (community supported agriculture).
  • Julia Majewski worked at Blandford Nature Center Farm and plans to begin a small farm on family land before scaling up to her own farmsite.
  • Katherine Sampson welcomed neighbors to her new educational gardens every week and plans to expand to partnering with schools and offering garden day camp for local youth in future years.
  • Melissa Holahan is a veterinarian who owns Chubb E. Acres Farm, a goat, dairy and mixed livestock farm that specializes in breeding, beekeeping and teaching veterinary students.
  • Michelle Adams is actively looking for land and hopes to start a farm with an on-farm store welcoming the community.
  • Miles Wood is working at New City Urban Farm and partnering with other BIPOC growers to access land for a collaborative farm in Grand Rapids, Michigan.
  • Mollie Phukan is planning to start a farm kitchen incubator project in southeast Michigan.
  • Remi Harrington and Zoo City Farm are connecting BIPOC farmers with land in Kalamazoo, Michigan, and collaborating to grow and market healthy foods in the city.
  • Russell Peacock is working on food access 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 farm vegetables and are restoring a prairie on the family farm.
  • Another graduate worked at Undertoe Farm and Leelanau Specialty Cut Flowers and plans to start a cut flower farm on family land. She will donate a portion of her profits to conservation projects.
  • Another graduate is partnering with an urban farm to manage vegetable production and to lead several of his own business ventures on their site.

Each graduate learned skills and made plans for their own unique farm, including writing a farm business plan that fit their values, goals, land and community needs. They visited 22 sustainable farms throughout Michigan and learned through 75-plus hours of hands-on activities at the 15-acre Student Organic Farm.

Organic Farmer Training Program learning themes included sustainable approaches to farm production, with topics like soils, weeds, insect pests, conservation, season extension, food safety, irrigation and tractors and equipment. Participants also learn how to start and run a viable business through topics like land access, farm loans, marketing, financials and labor management.

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

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