Guest blog post from Jamie DePalma, a graduate of the 2011 Farmer Training Program at UVM. This year’s program started in May 2012. Over the course of six months aspiring farmers and food systems advocates engage in a hands-on, skill-based education in sustainable agriculture. The full-time program offers participants the unique opportunity to manage their own growing site, take classes from professors and expert farmers, and rotate as workers and learners on successful, diverse farms in the Burlington area. Participants leave with a Certificate in Sustainable Farming, a deeper understanding of agricultural management and small-scale farming, and the entrepreneurial skills to start their own operation.
Why did you enroll in the UVM Farmer Training Program?
I wanted to gain a deeper appreciation and understanding of the skills necessary in small-scale, diversified agriculture, especially the business skills needed. I intended to take the learned knowledge and experiences, and create a business as a vegetable and herb farmer.
What were you doing (professionally) before the program?
I was working seasonally at Bolton Valley Resort as the Snowboard Manager. I continue to work there seasonally as the Ski & Ride School Director.
What was the most rewarding part of the program?
At the time it was getting to know lots of great people, from all walks of life. There were always amazing opportunities to learn from some of the best farmers in Vermont. Now I look back, and am so happy for all of the opportunities, experiences and connections that I have created. It has emerged me into the local farming community more then I could of hoped.
I think I might have to go with Farm Olympics. It was pure fun and laughs! In all reality, there were lots of great memories and people. Some of the best times were spent thinning or weeding and getting to know the other future farmers.
What are you doing now with what you learned?
I have started Freshies Farm, which provides all natural, pasture raised chicken and turkey. Eventually, I hope to expand Freshies to vegetables, herbs, eggs, bread and other livestock.
Any advice for beginning farmers?
Stick with it. Farming is hard work, but very rewarding. It is amazing to see what you can achieve with team work, patience and perseverance.