CWC launches new and beginning Farmer Training Program set to begin April 2021

Central Wyoming College announced on Jan. 19 the launch of its newest agricultural program to teach new and beginning farmers the skills to begin their own successful, small-scale farm businesses. The hands-on crop production practicum and farm business training course will take place at CWC’s Alpine Science Institute and will start on April 5.

Focusing on regenerative and high elevation farming practices, students will engage in learning through a six month, hands-on training where students will complete the program with a farm business plan to be ready to start their own farm.

CWC is uniquely positioned to bring more producers into the food system through this new and innovative program. Small-scale farming is an important component of a thriving local food economy and this training is for people who enjoy backyard gardening to more traditional farming, who are looking to diversify their revenue streams.

The program focuses on small-scale farming for those beginning farmers aspiring to provide fresh and healthy produce for themselves, their families, and their local food community. Although small farm-focused, the farming practices taught can be scaled-up to larger farming operations; particularly those practices which promote soil health and soil fertility. ” – Joanne Slingerland, CWC Lander Director and Project Director

Under the direction of Farm Manager and Instructor Ethan Page, students will learn farming techniques that take them through the entire high-elevation growing season. Beginning in April, participants will learn season extension practices in the high-tunnel hoop house and then move into the quarter-acre training farm to learn about seedbed preparation, transplanting, propagation, and direct seeding. Other topics taught in the practicum are integrated weed and pest management, management for soil health and fertility, installation of drip irrigation systems, composting, cover cropping, harvesting, processing/packaging, food safety practices, marketing, and farm business planning and management.

Access to land is often the biggest barrier for aspiring farmers. The Alpine Science Institute will have plots ranging in size from one-eighth to one-quarter acre in the farm incubator for those students completing a business plan and who don’t have access to farmland of their own to start their business. Incubator plots will be available beginning in the spring of 2022. Incubator plots are leased at below-market rates and include primary tillage, irrigation water, and ongoing mentoring. Farmers provide their own seed and drip irrigation supplies. Farming tools and equipment are available to the incubator farmers. 

“The incubator model was developed to assist farmers in starting and growing a successful farm business,” Slingerland said. “Incubator farmers typically lease plots for three to five years before transitioning onto their own land.”

Students have the option of completing a certificate in farm and ranch business management focusing on regenerative agriculture and small-scale farming. Incoming students will be advised on an education pathway that best meets their individual needs and goals. Financial aid assistance is available. On-site housing is also available at the Alpine Science Institute.

Registration for the crop production practicum and farm business course is now open. Contact Joanne Slingerland at (307)855-2330 or jslingerland@cwc.edu. For practicum specific questions, contact Ethan Page at (307)855-2074 or epage@cwc.edu. On-site farm and facility tours for prospective students can be arranged by appointment.

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