Big River Farms Training Program
Our program runs approximately from early January to early October. The program focuses on small-scale, Certified Organic vegetable farming, and is geared towards serving immigrant, limited resource, and historically-underserved communities.
Our program fees are subsidized based on serving participants whose household income is below 200% of the federal poverty line for a family of four. If you do not fall into this category, please discuss alternative fees with staff.
First year program fees are subsidized so that farmers pay 40% of the actual cost; second year, 60%; third year, 80%; and any subsequent years, 100%. This is based on the assumption that as participants progress through the program and farm more land, they will be able to increase their profits and will be able to afford to pay more of the true cost. For program costs of years 2 and on, please contact our Training Program Staff.
Training: $250 per year per “farm” in the MFA Big River Farms program for all the courses.
- 8-12 classroom sessions covering subjects related to sustainable, organic vegetable farming and the business of running your own farm. Topics include Introduction to Organic Farming, Marketing, Writing a Business Plan, and Record Keeping. These courses will run from January – April.
- Participation in the Annual Immigrant and Minority Farmers Conference.
- In-field classes and skill sessions during the growing season (May – October) covering practical production issues such as weeding, irrigation, cover cropping, pest prevention and management, greenhouse/hoophouse production, etc.
- Individual consultation with MFA staff regarding Organic Certification, crop planning, marketing and other farm business related subjects, and farming support resources. Also includes farmer plot field walks with Big River Farms staff.
- Free participation in any other extra workshops or events that MFA may organize outside of the regular sessions.
Training courses are open to a limited number of people outside of the enrolled participants for $25 per session. ($25 is due on or before the training course date. Discounts are available if paid in advance for multiple sessions.)
Land: $340 per acre for first year ($85 for ¼ acre for New Participants Year One).
- 4 Hours Tractor services (per acre), such as disking, tilling, cultivationg, mowing, etc
- Fence protection for crops
- Composting and cover cropping within MFA’s fertility plan (additional composting at participant’s own cost
- Direct costs for Certified Organic status
- Water testing fees
- Porta-potty and hand-washing station
- Garbage disposal
- Coverage under liability insurance
Infrastructure: $280 per “farm” for first year.
1. Use of the walk-in cooler for storage – space is allocated as per acres leased
2. Access to main irrigation line (does not include extra pipes, layflat or driptape per individual fields)
3. Use of the washing and packing shelter area
4. Storage space in the barn for farm equipment
5. Use of MFA’s weeding tools, harvest containers, push seeder, etc.
6. Use of Resource Computer and Resource Desk in MFA office
Liability Insurance: between $85-400 per year per farm. MFA recommends this for any farmer who is selling their produce anywhere, and it is required for many farmers markets.
Other farming expenses: transplants and seeds, irrigation drip lines, mulch material, soil amendments, pest control (organic pesticides, floating row cover, traps, etc), wholesale produce boxes (75cents to $2 a box, depending on produce type), cost of transportation, farm promotional materials and business cards, filing fees associated with filing business name with State (approx $60), among other things. Many expenses are investments as tools and equipment. Minnesota Food Association can provide extra custom tractor/field work at $40 an hour. Your job will cost at least $40, plus $10 for each additional 15 minutes.
Transportation is not provided by MFA. Participants must have transportation plans. Farmers would need to be able to come out to their plots at a minimum 2 times a week during the growing season for approximately 10 – 20 hours week. This minimal attendance is necessary to maintain healthy plants, produce quality produce, and control pests and weeds. Participants should be prepared to commute to St. Paul for all 8 classes from February through March. And, commute to Big River Farms for all 5 classes from May through October.
A deposit of $50 is required to reserve your spot in the program. For first year participants, this is required before classes start in February and will be collected when your Participation Agreement is signed. A second payment towards your land is due by April 15th in order for you to receive a land assignment. The required payment at this time is half your land payment. The remainder of your payment is due by May 1st. A payment plan can be set up with MFA staff. If payment is not complete by June 1st, late fees will be applied. (We realize that payment of fees can be a difficult economic reality for many people and would like to work out an agreeable plan. Although not a guarantee, farmers in our program have consistently sold between $3,000 - $10,000 per acre in gross sales.)
NOTES: Big River Farms is a Certified Organic farm. All participating “farms” are required to adhere to the regulations and complete the paperwork required for re-certification by Minnesota Crop Improvement Association (MCIA). Also, for successful continuation in Big Rivers Farm Training Program, we request participants adhere to the organic farming and land stewardship guidelines as expressed in the Participant Agreement.