Program gets boost with federal funds
NORTH BRUNSWICK — Many who are approaching farming as a second career often have romanticized notions of the job.
Growing vegetables or fruit can seem easy enough, on the surface.
But the difficulties of farming and how much salesmanship and marketing is involved are areas often overlooked by beginner and second career farmers.
Successful farmers like John Hauser, Jim Giamarese, Scott Morgan and Ray Hlubik wear a multitude of hats: weatherman, mechanic, carpenter, irrigation man, fertilizer handler, salesman, web-savvy marketer and community relations specialist.
Middlesex County Ag Extension Agent Bill Hlubik and his crew, including program coordinator Brendon Pearsall, are using grant monies to expand on a half day seminar Hlubik has conducted at the Vegetable Growers’ Association convention in Atlantic City.
RU Ready to Farm began online classes on May 13, owever, late comers to the program need not worry, as all online classes are archived and accessible via internet.
“This is something that Bill Hlubik has wanted to put together for a few years now,” Pearsall said. “I got involved with his team in the beginning of last year and was involved with applying for and getting the beginning farmer and rancher program development grants which is a USDA program.”
The USDA grant provides funding for the three-year program “but our goal is to see this continue much longer than that,” Pearsall said. “We would really like this to be a sustainable and long-term service that Rutgers Cooperative Extension is offering.”
Pearsall said it’s an important program for generational farm transitions as “there are a lot of farmers who do not have that next generation that is prepared to take over and be stewards of the land.”
“In some cases where we have large tracts of preserved farmland there is a real question: we have preserved the land but what have we done to preserve the farmer?” he asked. “Who’s going to take care of this land in the future?”
The expanded three-year program will go into farm equipment mechanics, carpentry, aspects of CSA programs, marketing and advertising, as well as grounding in all of the various county, state and federal agencies and organizations that offer help to farmers in general.
“It’s not enough just to grow good produce,” Pearsall said. “Farming is a business first, so you’ve got to be able to sell those vegetables.”
In year two of the program, in 2022, farmers-in-training will take small engine repair workshops, setting up and maintaining equipment, building chicken coops, hoop houses and other structures, running roto-tiller machines and the like.
Participating students will also have the chance to utilize land in the second year of the program and create a business plan.
“We’re trying to turn it into a multi-year, from-the-ground-up, comprehensive training program for younger farmers or second career farmers,” Pearsall added.
Plans for the program for this summer and fall include mostly outdoor visits to local farms.
The programs in 2021, 2022 and 2023 are made possible by a $550,000 grant from the USDA.
More information on signing up and curriculum details are available at www.rubeginnerfarmer.rutgers.edu.