UVM’s Farmer Training Program is a six-month, hands-on program for aspiring farmers and food-systems advocates that provides experiential, skills-based education in sustainable farming. Students will get a unique and comprehensive education by running all aspects of the 10-acre Catamount Educational Farm, learning from expert farmers and educators in the classroom, and alongside successful, inspiring farmers in the Burlington area. The Farmer Training Program is housed in UVM’s Plant and Soil Science Department, providing students the opportunity to interact with and learn from many of the faculty and staff who teach in the program and conduct research at the farm. Based within the Plant and Soil Science Department at UVM, the program provides students access to UVM’s academic ecosystem and top experts in the field. PLANT YOURSELF IN A NEW FIELD!
Why this program is important?
Now more than ever we need to sow seeds of resistance. Climate change, environmental degradation, poverty, and food access – are all issues at the forefront of our society. We must combat these socio-economic and environmental problems however we can. Growing local food is one significant way. Small, diversified farms that employ sustainable practices can improve soil, water and air quality, sequester carbon and increase biodiversity. The Farmer Training Program provides you the skills to manage a diversified farm and be that change our planet so desperately needs. Planting those seeds of resistance is the first step to localizing your community’s food system and healing the earth.
Vermont is a national model in alternative food-systems development with its network-based approach. Here you’ll find farmers, food-systems advocates, regional food hubs, policy makers, and community members committed to increasing production and consumption of local foods. Vermont has the highest number of farmers’ markets and CSAs per capita than any state, and it’s consistently ranked among the healthiest, greenest places in the nation. When it comes to local food, Vermont proves what’s possible.
Graduates will gain:
- A Certificate in Sustainable Farming from UVM
- Experience in organic crop production, from seed to market
- A deeper understanding of small-scale farm management
- Entrepreneurial skills to start a farm business
- A network of incredible people to provide support and guidance
A special thank you to
The program is designed for people interested in immersing themselves in sustainable, local food systems in a hands-on educational setting. Candidates include, but are not limited to: new and beginning farmers, urban and community gardeners, farm educators and students interested in deepening their understanding of sustainable farming systems in an intensive and focused learning environment.
Our curriculum starts in the field and continues in the classroom – from learning how to harvest arugula efficiently to listening to a presentation on soil fertility management – every part of the program emphasizes an applied, skill-based education. Over the course of six months, the UVM Farmer Training Program couples the invaluable approach of hands on learning with a classroom component and immersive rotations with incredible, successful local farmers. Working closely with experts in the field, the curriculum is designed to cover essential topics, using multiple formats throughout the growing season to build students’ experience, confidence, and skills. It is a learning experience unlike any other. Topics covered in the field and in the classroom program include:
- Vegetable, flower and herb production
- Integrated, small scale poultry systems
- Integrated grazing systems
- Organic soil fertility management
- Compost production and use
- Cover cropping and crop rotation systems
- Propagation and greenhouse management
- Direct sowing and transplanting
- Crop families
- Individual crop classes
- Harvest and post-harvest handling techniques
- Strawberry, blueberry, raspberry and apple production
- Season extension
- Organic pest, disease and weed management
- Irrigation systems
- Tractor and small equipment operation
- Tillage systems including regular, low and no till
- Hand tools and field systems
- Product safety
- Winter greens production
- Perennial systems and permaculture methods
- Understanding of food production as part of an ecological system
- Basic carpentry skills
- Electric fence systems
- CSA management
- Farmers market
- Wholesale marketing
- Marketing to a retail coop
- Farm financials
- Agricultural business planning
- Collective farm model
- Crop planning and field mapping
- Organic certification process
- Land Access
- Systems and record keeping
- Preservation and storage
- Seed saving
- Farm field trips
- Independent projects
- Social justice issues in the food system
“The people I’ve met have been the most enjoyable part of this program,” he says. “Their energy and passion to grow food and be a positive part of the changing food system have really inspired me.”Andy Lang, UVM Farmer Training Program Alumnus
“Before I came to UVM, I didn’t know how to grow food, and that seemed crazy to me. Bridging the gap between growing food and understanding policy is absolutely key.”Allie Williams, UVM Farmer Training Program Alumnae
“Being at UVM confirmed that I want to live a life off the land and make a living growing and making food for people in the local community. I never realized that was possible until I came here.”Brandon Chase, UVM Farmer Training Program Alumnus
“We knew we were interested in pursuing formal agricultural education because the program covers a wealth of subjects, the faculty and guest professors are experts in their fields, and we knew that meeting such a large network of food activists was invaluable. We were thrilled that the program had a number of classes on developing sustainable business and marketing strategies.”Caitlin and Jason Rodriguez Elberson, UVM Farmer Training Program Alumni
Rachel Stievater (she/her)
Jay Hardesty (they/them)
Coordinator and FTP Lead Instructor
tanamá varas (all pronouns)
Catamount Farm Manager and FTP Lead Instructor
- Ann Hazelrigg – Plant pathologist for UVM Extension and instructor
- Andrea Solazzo – Agriculture and Community Outreach Manager at the Vermont Foodbank
- Annie White – Plant and Soil Science Lecturer
- Don Stevens — Chief of the Nulhegan Band of the Coosuk – Abenaki Nation
- Ernesto Mendez – Plant and Soil Science Chair and Professor, Co-Director of UVM’s Agroecology and Livelihoods Collaborative
- Hans Estrin – Produce Safety Accreditation Program Coordinator
- Jacob Mushlin – Owner of Compose Design Build
- Janet Carscadden – Physical therapist and yoga instructor, co-owner of Evolution Yoga and Physical Therapy
- Josh Faulkner — Plant and Soil Science Research Assistant Professor, Farming and Climate Change Program in UVM Extension Center for Sustainable Agriculture
- Kimberly Hagen – Grazing Specialist with UVM extension and Center for Sustainable Agriculture
- Marita Canedo – Migrant Justice
- Michael Sundue – Research Assistant Professor in Plant Biology
- Nicole Dehne – Vermont Organic Farmers Certification Director
- Rebecca Maden – Vegetable Nutrient Management Specialist
- Richard Wiswall – Owner of Cate Farm, Farm Business Workshops
- Sid Bosworth – UVM Extension and Professor, Weed Management
- Sam Smith – Intervale Center Farm Business Director
- Terry Bradshaw – Director of UVM’s Horticultural Research Center, Research Associate for Plant and Soil Science
- Vic Izzo – Entomologist, Adjunct instructor at UVM, Champlain College and Johnson State
- Wendy Sue Harper – WSH Consulting, Soil Scientist and previous Professor at UVM
Cost & Time
For 2024, the program tuition for this six-month program is $6,650, which does not include housing or meals.
At time of registration you will be charged $850. The remaining balance of $5,800 will be charged to your account the first month following your registration. 50% of the remaining tuition cost ($2900) is due by March 1, 2024. All payments must be paid in full by April 1, 2024. An attendee will not be allowed to attend this offering if a balance is due.
If you wish to pay by credit card, please contact the Non-Credit Registrar’s Office at (802) 656-8407. If paying by a check or purchase order, these payments must be made payable to UVM or University of Vermont and mailed to UVM Non-Credit Registrar’s Office at 109 South Prospect St, Burlington VT 05405.
Other costs involved with attending this program:
Here are some estimates of additional costs students should plan for:
- Housing: $500 to $800 per month
- Meals: $200 to $400 per month
- Tools/Materials: $200 total (approximate)
The UVM Farmer Training program is unique in design because of its rich partnerships with successful farms in the greater Burlington area that allow students to learn alongside expert farmers. This weekly experience with three innovative farms exposes students to diverse farm models and enhances the learning gained from managing 10 acres of vegetable fields from seed to market.
Corie Pierce is a farmer and educator. She is the owner and operator of Bread & Butter Farm in South Burlington/ Shelburne, Vermont. Bread & Butter Farm is a diversified farm where they produce delicious and creamy raw milk, grass-fed beef, pastured raised pork, and vegetables, specializing in growing greens all winter long in unheated, passive solar greenhouses. Additionally, the farm is a community hub, hosting a winter concert series (Silo Sessions) led by her musician partner Chris Dorman and other educational workshops, internships, and programs.
Leading up to farming full-time, Corie attended the UC Santa Cruz Apprenticeship and then worked at Michigan State University where she developed and launched the Organic Farming Certificate Program based at the Student Organic Farm.
Most recently, she was the garden manager and Sustainable Agriculture faculty at Sterling College in Craftsbury Common, Vermont. Corie grew up in Exeter, New Hampshire, and got her farming start at Barker’s Farm in Stratham, New Hampshire. She loves basketball, yoga, biking, music, and spending time with her partner Chris Dorman and their children Henry and Samantha.
Brandon Bless is an agroforester and educator living and working at Bread & Butter Farm as the Land and Animal Manager. In collaboration with Corie Pierce and Henry Cammack, Brandon oversees the more than 200-acres of managed grasslands, woodlands, and wildlands and the farm’s diversity of 100% grass-fed cattle and sheep, woodland pigs, pastured poultry, and abundant wildlife. Brandon comes to Bread and Butter Farm with degrees and education in agroforestry, ecological forest management, sustainable building and design, and ethnoecology, as well as over a decade of farm and land management experience in various climates and geographies both in the New England region and internationally. In addition to teaching in the UVM Farmer Training Program, Brandon is also adjunct faculty in the Sustainable Agriculture program at Sterling College. His work with land and animals focuses on the restoration and regeneration of healthy habitats and ecosystems through profitable, community-based food production. Brandon and his wife Stephanie Bless are happy and grateful to call Bread and Butter Farm home.
Andy Jones has managed the Intervale Community Farm since 1993 and is one of the pioneers of the CSA movement in Vermont. Andy’s diverse skills, optimistic outlook, and incredible vision have helped the farm grow into the largest CSA in Vermont.
Andy wears many hats at ICF: financial planner, mechanic, carpenter, community builder, teacher, and horticulturist. Along with the farm’s Board of Directors, Andy has built the farm into the wonderful community resource that it exists as today.
Besides his incredible dedication to the Intervale Community Farm, Andy has served on the NOFA-VT board and the Vermont Vegetable and Berry Grower’s Association board, and has been a sought-after speaker in many classes and workshops relating to agriculture.Andy attributes much of his farming success to a high consumption of coffee.
He also enjoys eating vegetables in all stages of growth and loves to share the farm with his wife, Helen, and sons Davis and Ian.
Adam’s Berry Farm is a thriving community oriented farm that grows delicious certified organic strawberries, blueberries, raspberries and table grapes. Their Pick Your Own is open from June to the middle of October, beginning with strawberries and ending with fall bearing raspberries. They grow 20 varieties of strawberries, 12 varieties of blueberries, 9 varieties of raspberries, 3 varieties of grapes, 3 varieties of gooseberries and 5 varieties of currants. Berries for the belly!
June Farm is a cut flower farm on Burlington’s Intervale run by Brooke Giard and Braden Lalancette. They specialize in cultivating unique and uncommon flower varieties. June Farm runs and operates a full summer long CSA, sells wholesale bouquets to many local grocers and businesses, vends at the Burlington Farmers’ Market every Saturday, grows flowers for a pick-your-own field, designs for large and small weddings all throughout Vermont, supplies DIY buckets, and sells wholesale to local florists and designers.
Field Trip Farms
Field trips give students an opportunity to gain a different perspective of life on the farm and see a diverse set of farming operations and marketing models throughout the state. Vermont is home to a wide array of innovative farmers who are willing and open to host students on their farms for tours, workshops, and work parties during the peak of the growing season. Through the program, students will be introduced, and at times inspired by an extensive network of farmers that are committed to small-scale agriculture as a career path and a way of life.
Diggers’ Mirth Collective Farm is located in the Burlington’s Intervale. They collectively own and manage this 12 acre certified organic farm, which was founded in 1992. As a collective, each partner works to make production and marketing decisions jointly. They grow a variety of vegetables, annual herbs and root crops, specializing in high quality greens. Digger’s Mirth sells their produce to Burlington businesses and restaurants, at the Burlington Farmer’s Market and from their mobile veggie stand in the streets of the Old North End. The name Digger’s Mirth comes from the Digger movement, which took place in England in the mid-1600s: supporters were striving to create a connection between humans and their natural surroundings, and believed in collective land ownership and farming.
Elmer Farm is a conserved 90-acre farm located in East Middlebury. They grow 25 acres of mixed vegetables, grains, and dry beans. Annually, the farm is inspected and certified by Vermont Organic Farmers (VOF). This reassures their members that the crops are grown responsibly and safely without the use of synthetic fertilizers, herbicides or pesticides. Like so many of the old farmsteads in Addison County, the Elmer Farm has a long heritage of providing food for it’s community. This farm belonged to the Elmer family since the early 1800’s. The receding glaciers bestowed the farm with a wonderful mix of fertile soils, almost thirty acres of sandy loam, excellent for growing vegetables and grains.
Footprint Farm is a small farm in most respects. They farm on about 10 acres in Starksboro, Vermont. They raise certified organic vegetables, flowers, and eggs, as well as pork and maple syrup that are not certified but are produced using the same organic principles. They have a CSA at the heart of their farm, which is a membership program in which 60 families from their community sign up for a season’s worth of produce, eggs, or pork. They also sell at the Shelburne Farmers Market, grow and arrange flowers for weddings, and host events from mushroom forays to puppet shows to preserving workshops.
High Mowing Seeds is a located in Wolcott Vermont. What started as a one-man operation is now a thriving business making available to home gardeners and commercial growers over 600 heirloom, open-pollinated and hybrid varieties of vegetable, fruit, herb and flower seed. True to their roots, High Mowing Organic Seeds continues to grow many of the varieties they sell on their 40 acre farm, setting them apart from the majority of other seed companies.
Maple Wind Farm is a diversified pasture-based livestock, poultry, organic vegetable, and maple products farm located on two conserved properties in Huntington and Richmond, VT. Using environmentally sustainable practices and alternative energy inputs, they produce 100% grass-fed and grass-finished beef, heritage breed pork, certified organic and non-organic broiler chickens, layer chickens for eggs, and certified organic turkeys, all on pasture. They process our own poultry and poultry for other farmers at our Richmond-based Vermont-inspected poultry processing unit. Maple Wind Farm also operates a small sugar bush, offers winter yurt rentals, and relies on wind and solar power for much of its power requirements. They sell direct at our farm in Huntington (by appointment), at the summer Richmond and summer and winter Burlington farmers’ markets, and wholesale to restaurants and food markets and coops in Vermont and greater New England.
Old Soul Farm is located in central Vermont on 13 acres of sloping, south-facing mixed pasture and woodlands. It was originally a dairy farm and the owner prior to us kept horses so the pastures were managed and the soil was fertile. They have turned the few flat areas of that pasture into our vegetable fields and the sloping terrain around them have been planted with fruit trees, nuts, berries, flowers and other perennial plants. The idea is to create an edible forest which will feed us and the surrounding community throughout the year and which is managed in a way that is good for the earth. The owners are graduates of the Farmer Training Program.
Roger’s Homestead grow a variety of organic grains on our family farm in Central Vermont. They carefully select and cultivate grain varieties that result in quality baking ingredients. Their grains are then milled on the farm in small batches to bring you some of the freshest flours in the region.
The Farm Between is an organic fruit nursery in Jeffersonville, Vermont. They specialize in fruit trees, berry bushes, and pollinator plants. They sell a wide variety of cold hardy and disease resistant nursery plants like apple trees, elderberry bushes, currants, gooseberries, aronia, blueberries, raspberries and more. They also provide in depth consulting services related to fruit growing and enhancing pollinator habitat on your land.
Gen grew up covered in soil, with a shirt full of gleaned potatoes from her family’s fields. Food was always a part of her definition of family and community. She spent a lot of time working in kitchens and in food retail spaces. Finding herself constantly looking out the window, it became clear that a shift back to soil and sun was calling. Enter FTP.
FTP had been on her radar for a few years, and it finally came time to take the leap and move to VT. The program guided Gen’s longing for connection with land, food, and people and solidified an understanding of her role in the work of feeding others. With the path more clearly in view after FTP, Gen accepted a position at the Farm @ the Vermont Youth Conservation (VYCC) as the Farm Production Coordinator where she works alongside young people to steward a 14-acre production farm. Food grown serves a 450-member Health Care Share (look it up, it’s pretty cool!). Additionally, when not farming, Gen enjoys farming– tending to a small herd of dairy goats and connecting with food-loving neighbors.
Abdoulaye is an immigrant from Senegal in West Africa and grew up in the capital city of Dakar. He lived in Italy for over a decade before moving to the United States. He travelled to a few different places before landing in Vermont. He worked as a precision machinist for many years but after finishing FTP, he is now switching gears and is pursuing a future in farming. He is a 2021 FTP alum. Along with his wife and children he is starting Khelcom Farm in Berlin VT. It is an urban style farm which will be operational for year 1 of business in the spring of 2022. He will be growing a variety of vegetables, herbs and cut flowers for sale. In addition, he has chickens, ducks, goats, and a lamb for eggs and meat for personal consumption. He credits FTP for giving him a solid foundation to have the knowledge and confidence to pursue this transition.
Ali was living in New Orleans, Louisiana, slinging drinks and working with some innovative food & drink pros before deciding to attend FTP. Driven by a desire to do good, to learn more about where her food came from, and by a general obsession with plants that had festered and gone unfulfilled for years, she packed up her dog and her things and moved to the snowy north. Ali left FTP with a deep love and appreciation for the land and for the people who steward it, as well as for the plants and animals that belong to it. She has gone on to work with several growing and landscaping operations in Vermont, including Red Wagon Plants, Shelburne Orchards, and Restoration Gardening. Learning from these leaders about how far behind the ornamental horticulture industry is regarding responsible practice, Ali decided to make her dislike of the suburban lawn a career path. She is now the Product Manager for American Meadows, a Vermont-based wildflower seed and ornamental plant supplier, working to bring biodiversity and resilient landscaping principles to the direct-to-consumer market.
Evan was living and working in tech startup world in San Francisco before moving to Vermont for FTP. He started the program with absolutely no experience raising food and fell quickly in love with the beautiful labor of feeding land and people. Distressed by the tight financial environment most farmers find themselves in, but inspired by an abundance of incredible farmer mentors, Evan spent years after FTP exploring cooperative farm models and alternative economics, eventually landing at Brush Brook Community Farm in Huntington, VT. This experiment in gift-based food production raises sheep and cows, veggies, and bakes bread and makes soup. All these wonderful foods are then offered as a gift at no charge. Evan has been able to keep applying and building on what he learned at FTP, while deepen relationships and serving the land that feeds him and his community, which is more than his tech-addled brain could have ever asked for before finding FTP.
Eric joined the Farmer Training Program in 2019 to explore sustainable agriculture through personal, technological, and business perspectives. He grew up on Long Island, NY in the deep suburbs and had a background in computer science, only awakened to farming later in life. FTP taught him crucial farm management skills, grounded his knowledge in much broader political, social, and ecological contexts, and enabled him to form so many meaningful, life-long relationships. Eric spent another season after FTP growing organic vegetables and is now a software engineer for Silo, a wholesale food platform looking to bring transparency and sustainability to the food system. He still looks forward to forming his own farm and technology operation, marrying efficiency and ecological responsibility.
Our farming journey began in 2015, when Fabio quit his job slinging’ brews to intern with Paul + Sandy Arnold of Pleasant Valley Farm in Argyle, NY. Christine left her job as a veterinary assistant to join him through the Fall and Winter. Under the Arnold’s tutelage, we got our first taste of production, year-round farming – and fell head over heels.
Following the completion of our internships, we returned home and took over a family garden. That year we sold a few CSA shares and at a community farmers market while working “9-5” jobs to build our farm-nest-egg. After that important first season, it was clear which skills we each had and which we lacked. So, in 2018 we packed up again and moved to Burlington, VT to attend the Farmer Training Program at UVM. We credit FTP – and our incredible instructors, cohort, and rotational farm mentors – with filling in the gaps/teaching us the tools to become more thoughtful, capable, and confident farmers.
Post-VT and in pursuit of land to lease in our native Capital Region, we posted our profile on what is essentially a dating service for land-owners and land-seekers. With this resource, we connected with our incredible partners, Cecilia Aldarondo + Gabriel Kristal. In 2019 we broke ground on their land outside of Saratoga Springs, NY selling veggies and some flowers at three small farmers markets. That first season, the four of us built such a solid and reciprocal relationship, that when Cecilia + Gabe decided to relocate to the Hudson Valley, they asked if we would join them. So in 2020, mid-pandemic, our newly formed collective moved to our forever-farm in Catskill. Visit our farm’s website @ Nimble Roots Farm
Allie grew up in Houston, Texas, and Memphis, Tennessee, before moving to New York City for college. At New York University she studied Politics, Food, and Public Health. Food and urban agriculture have always played a large role in her life: she grew up cooking every night with her parents, watched every food documentary and movie that she could, and read any book she could find about the food industry. After graduating from NYU in 2014, she moved to San Francisco to work as the West Coast sales associate at 18 Rabbits, an organic granola bar company. After one year of working in the 9-5 office world, she knew it wasn’t for her. She joined UVM’s Farmer Training Program for hands-on experience and to gain knowledge and skills about farming that she could use to create a food justice ecosystem. After finishing the Farmer Training Program, Allie thought nothing else would ever be as good. But it has been in the months following that she has been able to see how the six months spent at Catamount Farm prepared her for her next stepsAllie worked as a crops and livestock apprentice at Stone Barns Center for Food and Agriculture in Tarrytown, New York in 2018 and then moved to Austin, TX to start Neighborfood, a small yard farming business. After running that for a year, she is now starting a 1/2 acre vegetable, ginger, and turmeric farm outside of Austin with the help of her one year old son, Quinn.
Bernice is proudly South African, straight outta Cape Town. After a long (but not terribly fulfilling) career in a sterile laboratory environment, she decided she wanted something more out of life. She had always wanted to work within her community but needed to make sure that it was doing something dear to her heart. In 2014, she moved to the US, which gave her the perfect opportunity to explore new possibilities. Using her love of gardening as inspiration, she discovered FTP and found this hands-on program very appealing. Faster than you can say “cover crop” she fell head over heels in love with growing food, and 6 months in Vermont turned into 2 years that included a season at one of the farms she got to know during FTP rotation.
In 2018, she made the leap back to South Africa and set out to build a longstanding project of her own that would allow her to apply the practical tools she gained at FTP. After helping with some projects at schools and a psychiatric hospital on the Cape Flats, she met a teacher whose school was looking to establish a food garden to benefit the learners and the surrounding community, and an urban farmer was born. Far from the rural green hills of northern Vermont, the Sosebenza garden is situated in Khayelitsha, a part of Cape Town close to the Indian Ocean in what was once an expanse of sandy dunes and flats. Now it is home to over 1 million people (and about 4 million snails). Sometimes, it has proven challenging to work with the wind, the snails, the intense root structures of the plants seeking any drop of water, and the lack of organic matter (cover crop, cover crop, cover crop!), but the solid base of knowledge, versatility, and ingenuity that FTP gave has made it possible for her to create a space that is meaningful both to her and to the community. Like all farming, it’s a work in progress. She hopes to expand her pilot work at Sosebenza to other projects around the city in the future.
After too many days in front of too many office screens, Ian started to dwell on memories of dirt-covered hands and the smell of manure from his time spent on Wisconsin farms. With a taste for entrepreneurship and a desire for something more than farmhand grunt-work, he found his way to the Farmer Training Program. These days, Ian is back in NYC, finding fulfillment through fish poop. With the aquaponic system at Upward Farms, he works with the productive power of a symbiotic ecosystem of fish, microbes, and plants to produce Ready-to-Eat greens and fish for sale in Whole Foods and grocers around NYC. As the world’s only Certified Organic vertical farm, he applies diverse FTP lessons such ecological interdependencies, food safety, value added products, and even tractor lessons—which help him wrangle the robots—to bring some needed life to high-tech Controlled Environment Agriculture.
At the Farmer Training Program, Ian gained a powerful combination of scientific knowledge, business acumen, and farming techniques that enables him to build a commercial urban farm and ultimately be a part of a solution to our broken food system. He recommends FTP to everyone who wants to bring more life to their life or career.
Jack Dempsey grew up in Chattanooga, TN, and after a 3-month wwoofing experience, he knew that he wanted to dedicate his life to agriculture. He needed to find a way to educate himself about farming, and found the Farmer Training Program in VT. The farmer training program is what kicked off his agricultural career. Not only did it offer a foundation of knowledge, but it also provided invaluable relationships and connections with people in agriculture that have led him to where he is today. Following the Farmer Training Program, Jack continued his farming education and experience with some farming apprenticeships for a number of years. Along the way, Jack saw the influence of media and the way online content can have an impact. He picked up a camera and started taking photos and making videos to promote and help farms to achieve their goals and create bigger impact. Jack then attended Full Sail University to study media communications, and currently works at Rodale Institute has the staff videographer. That position is the perfect mixture of Jack’s two passions of agriculture and creating videos. At Rodale Institute, Jack shoots the video content for online courses and various online campaigns.
Liz feels she was lucky enough to stumble into the Farmer Training Program by way of a concern for food sovereignty and the desire to learn and know the basics of what sustains us here on this amazing hunk of floating rock and space dust. She spent time working at Cookbook, a small market in Los Angeles while also volunteering with Food Forward, an organization that gleans excess produce with the intention of redistribution to shelters and food banks. Having access to those opportunities led her to want to really dig in and learn more about the entire food system–the seeds, farms and growers. The Farmer Training Program stood out as a great way to learn about all of the above. “To have the chance to do morning field walks, look at the books of small and large scale farming operations, use a potato digger while getting schooled on integrative pest management all in the same week is really a great experience. And to be able to share that experience with a couple dozen beautiful strangers from completely different backgrounds and parts of the country is such a privilege.” Elizabeth now manages the Wholesale Program at High Mowing Organic Seeds, a 100% Certified Organic independent, farm-based seed company. Her team is responsible for getting organic seeds out to coops, farm stands and nurseries across the country. She credits the Farmer Training Program for introducing her to High Mowing Seeds and getting her involved in the organic seed world.
Rewind to a hot garlic field in Arizona was Riv’s “aha!” moment. With such gratitude for the simplicity of the task, the straw hat on his head, and the elemental connection to the heat, sun, soil, he knew that organic agriculture was the lifestyle he wanted to explore and the Farmer Training Program is where he landed. FTP was one of the best experiences of his life, “It prepared me to think more about diverse styles of farming and ways of establishing my own future farm and bringing it to fruition. Whether farming berries like Adam’s Berry Farm, or something more diversified with large scale CSA like Intervale Community Farm, it allowed me to have a clearer idea of what I want to do.” Riv sees a clear future ahead, “Farming is definitely what I want to be doing for the rest of my life. Human to human, human to land, human to self-connections are ignited. It is the essence of getting back to the roots, and there is space for everyone, people of all races, genders, and abilities can come together over food.”
After completing the Farmer Training Program together, Kim and her partner, Matt Systo, purchased a 13-acre property in Barre, VT that was previously a dairy farm. There they created Old Soul Farm, a market garden consisting of one acre of vegetables, two hoop houses, and a continually increasing number of berries, fruit trees, and perennials. They also have a cut flower field and a medicinal herb garden located just outside their on-site farm stand. The farm stand is located in the barn where they also keep their flock of 55 laying hens. They sell a variety of canned goods and value added products in their farm stand due to the recent addition of a production kitchen on the property. First and foremost, they operate their farm as a homestead, striving to produce and preserve as much as possible for their own consumption and sustainability. With a heavy focus on permaculture principles, they plan to continue to design, plant, and graze as many of their remaining 12 acres as possible. They credit FTP for giving them the knowledge necessary to start and successfully operate their own farm within 6 months of graduating.
Andrew Bahrenburg is a legislative assistant for Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT), working on agriculture and climate policy in the Senator’s Washington, DC office. Previously, he served as the policy director for the National Young Farmers Coalition during the organization’s 2018 Farm Bill campaign. Andrew graduated from the Farmer Training Program in 2013 and served as the farm assistant and educator for the two subsequent seasons on the farm before becoming an organizer and advocate for Rural Vermont. For Andrew, the Farmer Training Program helped provide the practical farming skill-set necessary to understand and advocate for small-scale farmers and local food systems at both the state and federal policy level.
From Oregon to Vermont, Ryan found his way to the Farmer Training Program in 2013. Prior to a transition to agriculture, Ryan was deep in the backcountry leading wilderness trips with youth. He is currently the sole farmer and owner of his business Naked Acre Farm. Ryan began farming immediately after he graduated from the program. Naked Acre Farm is featured on menus at Hen of the Wood and other high-end restaurants in Northern Vermont. He attributes a lot of his initial success to his time spent learning from mentors and other farmers in the Farmer Training Program. For 2017, he is expanding to two acres. “After three seasons, I feel like I have a touch of farming wisdom, developed systems, established relationships with my markets, and a strong support system largely derived from my amazing FTP cohort who come help me weed and harvest garlic when the work seems too much. In addition, I am looking to purchase land this year and to find my permanent Naked Acre to call home.”
Hadley started her farming career in 2012 after years of living in New York City. She moved to Vermont and joined FTP community in 2013 in hopes to achieve a deeper understanding of sustainable agriculture. Her experience with FTP was invaluable. It gave her the confidence and comprehensive knowledge she needed to take on even the most intense farming situations. After her time at FTP, she moved to Marin County in California to work as an apprentice and then eventually a manager at a goat and sheep dairy farm and creamery (Toluma Farms and Tomales Farmstead Creamery). For the last three years, she has been involved in all aspects of the farmstead – kidding / lambing, milking, land management, cheese making, etc. In January of 2016, in the middle of lambing season, she gave birth to her daughter, Una (Gaelic for lamb) and has continued working on the farm with her in tow.
Todd got into farming through a CSA workshare program at Green Gate Farms in Austin, TX. He had quit his Boston lawyer job and was looking for a fresh start. After a brief stint taking culinary classes and studying agricultural and food law, he decided to dive into farming full time and enrolled in FTP. He loved the program’s comprehensive approach to all aspects of a farm business, and the great network of farmers he was introduced to through the program (a network he still relies on today). After a couple years working on different farms in Massachusetts, Todd and his partner, Suzy Kaplan, started Fat Sheep Farm & Cabins in Hartland, Vermont in 2016. They sell produce and eggs at area farmers markets and to local restaurants, and plan to start making sheep’s milk cheese soon. In 2017, they will also open five rental cabins on the farm allowing their guests to enjoy all the farm’s offerings while enjoying amazing views of the surrounding hills and woodlands. The farm is located near Woodstock and Quechee, and they hope to offer a unique agri-tourism experience to the area’s many visitors.
Caitlin and Jason own Sobremesa, an artisanal fermented foods company based in central Vermont with her husband Jason (also FTP ’13). Sobremesa is a Spanish word that refers to the time spent lingering around the table after a meal. This name is at the heart of why they grow and make food. Sobremesa is a time to digest and savor food, family, and friendship. The Elbersons enjoy selling their products at the Burlington and Stowe Farmers’ Markets and a number of local farm stands and stores. In fall of 2014, they moved to Marshfield, VT where they purchased a 7.5-acre homestead that they named Wild Rhythms Farm. They grow vegetables, herbs, berries, and are excited to establish perennials. They tend to a diversified flock of laying hens and Chocolate Muscovy ducks, and raise a small flock of Icelandic and Border Leicester sheep. Before attending the Farmer Training Program in 2013, Caitlin and Jason were living in Pennsylvania, where Caitlin worked as Director of Development at a Waldorf School and Jason worked as a mechanical engineer. After FTP, they spent one season milking cows at Stony Pond Farm in Fairfield, VT. Caitlin manages the Stowe Farmers’ Market and both Jason and Caitlin work part-time seasonally at High Mowing Organic Seeds. Caitlin and Jason began FTP with the goal of beginning their own business, and the two are grateful to FTP for helping them feel prepared to dive right in.
A Week on the Farm
Farmer Training Program students gain most of their hands-on experience at the Catamount Educational Farm. They also farm alongside experienced farmers at the Intervale Community Farm, Adam’s Berry Farm and Bread and Butter Farm. On top of all the experiential learning, students also have lectures that deepen their production, marketing, and business planning knowledge.
Just like on a working farm, a week in the life of a student can be varied and diverse. This is what a typical week In the Farmer Training Program looked like. Some adjustments to the schedule will be made to address safety concerns in response to the COVID pandemic for the 2021 cohort.
To start off the week you have a crop class in the field to learn about the individual growing considerations and harvesting techniques of various crops. Then you meet your fellow students and program staff to do a field walk where you will assess the needs of the farm for that week. Students observe crop health, weed pressure, harvest needs, etc. to help create a list of tasks and priorities that need to be done. This weekly activity of the farm walk helps you hone your skills at “thinking like a farmer” and helps you develop a critical eye for what the pressing needs are on a farm.
After the farm walk, the group has a meeting detailing the logistics and learning goals of the upcoming week. Then students will work on the priority farm tasks in the fields until lunch. After lunch a fellow student will lead us in an “inspire”, a weekly tradition where one student facilitates an activity meant to foster a sense of community and fun on the farm. The rest of the day you will continue to work on the priority farm tasks with your fellow students and staff.
All day Tuesday, you are on-site at Catamount Farm experiencing hands-on learning while completing tasks designated as priorities in the field that week. It is a harvest day, half of the students will work on harvesting, washing and packing produce that will be sold by in the afternoon at the Old North End Farmers Market and delivered to CSA members. In the afternoon some students will setup and person the farm stand and CSA pickup spots on campus. The other students will work in the field weeding, doing tractor work, and tending to farm chores.
You have class together or are on field trip. One classroom day might look like this: In the morning a UVM professor comes to teach a class on soil fertility management and you will have a plant pathology field walk with an agricultural extension agent. In the afternoon, a business-savvy farmer comes to discuss the farm financials and business planning. Other Wednesdays will involve a field trip to one or two farms in the area where you will learn their farming practices. After lunch on Wednesdays students are given time to work in their own personal garden located on the farm.
The cohort divides into five rotation groups. Two groups remain at Catamount Farm and three groups go off site to learn alongside one of our rotation farmers. Whatever site you are at, you finish your day there knowing your fellow students have been busy at the other rotation sites harvesting, planting, weeding, and marketing.
Every other week is an assessment on competency/understanding of those two weeks’ skills and objectives. On the alternate Fridays, a guest speaker will present on topics such as livestock management or food justice issues. The remainder of the day students will develop their field work skills – operating tractors, seeding in the greenhouse, or hoeing in the squash field.
This program offers a more formal, intensive approach to a farming education, with a weekly classroom day taught by a wide range of experts, including farmers, University professors, extension agents, and other professionals working in the local food system. The program is in UVM’s Plant and Soil Science Department, providing students the opportunity to interact with and learn from many of the faculty and staff who teach in the program and conduct research at the farm. In addition to the classroom curriculum, participants gain in-depth experience through managing the 10-acre Catamount Educational Farm with staff instruction, working alongside seasoned farmers with diverse business models, and visiting other local farms. Students also design and complete an independent project that allows them to further explore their specific interests. Unlike being an apprentice on one farm, where your main responsibility is to be a worker on the farm, the UVM Farmer Training Program offers time and resources for learning that a traditional farm apprenticeship cannot provide.
Students are on the farm Monday-Thursday 8:30-4 and Friday 8:30-2:30. This allows students to find employment on Friday afternoons and weekends. Students typically devote 40 hours a week to this program, which includes the time on the farm, reading assignments and projects. Some weeks will require a little more time to complete assignments and when students are on the farmstand rotation. Here are more details about the weekly schedule.
This program is geared for beginning farmers who have shown enthusiasm and commitment to sustainable agriculture. If you have not yet worked a full season on a farm, you can demonstrate that commitment through volunteering on a farm, attending conferences, WWOOFing, having a community garden plot, taking relevant courses, etc.
Each week students are assigned readings that correspond with the weekly classroom presentations. There are other projects that students are expected to complete including a crop planning exercise, farm financials and business planning project, soil fertility management exercises and a final independent project. Every other week an assessment will be administered to help students determine if they are meeting the learning objectives.
Students are responsible for finding their own housing in the Burlington area. They can choose to live in the thriving downtown area or in one of the nearby communities, opting to rent an apartment or a room, or share a house, depending on their preference. Students should expect to pay between $500 and $800 per month for housing. We also support accepted students by connecting them with others in the program who are looking for group housing.
There are regional and national opportunities worth researching and applying for. A few great examples: Future Organic Farmer Grant Fund and VSAC Grants for non-degree courses (VT residents only). Women applicants can apply for scholarships from Les Dames d’Escoffier International. AmeriCorps educational stipends and the VA GI Bill can also be used to cover tuition. The University of Vermont is able to certify VA benefits for the Farmer Training program. If you intend to use VA benefits for this program, please register and contact UVM’s Veterans Affairs Coordinator, David Carlson, via email at email@example.com (preferred) or by phone at (802) 656-0581, and Program Specialist, Kelly Baldwin at Kelly.Baldwin@uvm.edu, to inform the university of these intentions. To register without a deposit (if using Post 9/11 GI Bill or VRE Chapter 31) please call our Noncredit Office at (802) 656-8407.
Learn about additional options for discounts, grants, loans, scholarships, and more on our tuition and financial aid page.
The Farmer Training Program is a non-credit program, and therefore it is not eligible for financial aid, work study, or University loan programs. Previous students have taken out personal loans.
For 2023, the program is limited to 25 students.
For 2023, the program tuition is $6,650, which does not include housing or meals.
At time of registration you will be charged $850. The remaining balance of $5,800 will be charged to your account the first month following your registration. 50% of the remaining tuition cost ($2900) is due by March 1, 2023. All payments must be paid in full by April 1, 2023. An attendee will not be allowed to attend this offering if a balance is due.
If you wish to pay by credit card, please contact the Non-Credit Registrar’s Office at (802) 656-8407. If paying by a check or purchase order, these payments must be made payable to UVM or University of Vermont and mailed to UVM Non-Credit Registrar’s Office at 460 South Prospect Street, Burlington, VT 05405, ATTN: Accounts Receivable.
If you need to cancel your attendance, you must notify us via email at firstname.lastname@example.org or call us at (802) 656-2085 by April 1, 2024. A full refund, less an $800 non-refundable fee and a $50 cancellation fee, will be made.
After April 4, 2023, refunds (less the $800 non-refundable fee and a $50.00 cancellation fee) will be issued according to the following dates:
April 1 through April 15, 2024: 50% refund
April 16, 2024 and beyond: NO REFUND
If a medical condition necessitates cancellation/withdrawal (documentation provided), this will be reviewed by our Studies Committee for any type for a refund.
Here are some estimates of additional costs students should plan for:
- Housing: $500 to $800 per month
- Meals: $200 to $400 per month
- Tools/Materials: $200 total (approximate)
Many participants use their experience in the program to start their own farm and food businesses or work for another farm. Graduates become educators or work for non-profits and other organizations, helping to reform our food system and increase access to local foods. This practical training program helps prepare students to be effective workers in the local, sustainable food movement as it continues to grow and create new job opportunities for qualified people. See our alumni page for profiles of our alumni and how they have incorporated their experience into a career.
The students who enter UVM’s Farmer Training Program come from all over the country. We often get a greater number of people from New England, but the remaining spots fill with individuals from varied states.
- New York
One of the rewarding aspects of FTP is that, because it’s a certificate program, it attracts individuals from a wide range in age demographic. Most students are in their mid to late 20s and early 30s, but we always have individuals who fall to either side of that range (from early 20s to early 60s). This range in life experiences and careers makes for rich conversation and perspective.
Participating in UVM’s Farmer Training Program means going back to school. This is a full-time, structured learning experience that uses UVM’s farm as its classroom. There are many dedicated instructors who teach within this program:
- FTP’s 4 full-time staff members
- Other farm staff members
- Our many guest instructors (UVM professors, extension agents, area farmers, other agricultural professionals working at area non-profits)
- Our partnership farmers (who interact with our students on a weekly basis)
Advising and Student Support
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