LEWISTON, Minn. Ñ The Farm Beginnings apprenticeship program will expand
> beyond dairy farming in the coming year, according to Jill O'Neill, a Land
> Stewardship Project (LSP) organizer. She said the apprenticeship program is
> now seeking candidates for its 1999 class.
"We focused on grass-based dairy farming the first year because there was so
> much interest in it," said O'Neill. "In 1999, we're going to expand the
> program so that participants can get hands-on experience in other areas of
> low-cost farming There are a lot of exciting resources and innovations for
> getting more people involved in a profitable way of farming."
> Farm Beginnings is sponsored by LSP, as well as Goodhue and Wabasha County
> Extension. It was developed by a group of local farmers and business owners
> as a way to provide a foot in the door for people looking for low-cost
> entries into farming.
> During 1998, 10 participants in the first Farm Beginnings class spent much of
> the year getting hands-on experience with management intensive rotational
> grazing. They took a series of courses on everything from livestock and
> pasture management to business planning and goal-setting. The participants
> also worked with established dairy farmers in southeast Minnesota to gain
> insights into what it takes to make it in farming. Classes and
> apprenticeships were scheduled so that participants could keep their regular
> Roger Benrud, a 27-year-old rural Goodhue resident, said the program provided
> a way for he and his wife Michelle to get more involved in grass-based
> livestock production. They are currently grazing beef cattle and hope to have
> their own dairy herd in the future.
> "It's kind of given me a little extra incentive and an extra shove to get
> going on what I want to do," he said. "What I'm most grateful for is they got
> me into a grazing group where we meet once a month and talk about things."
> Ralph Stelling, a 60-year-old Millville dairy farmer who helped develop the
> Farm Beginnings program, said it has helped debunk some myths about getting
> started in farming.
> "I think several of the apprentices from 1998 are going to begin farming
> within the next year," he said. "That's exciting, because when they first
> started the class they were kind of apprehensive that farming was too
> expensive to get started in. But going through the class they found out that
> there are ways of getting started."
> To enroll as a participant or serve as a mentor farmer in the 1999 Farm
> Beginnings course, call O'Neill in Lewiston at 507-523-3366, or e-mail her at
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