In The News

Local Program Helps Beginning Farmers


For some, farming isn’t so much a job they choose as it is a lifestyle they were born into. Many grow into the role of operator with strong support from their parents and grandparents. Others, however, enter the industry without the rich history of a family business to bolster them, and the related knowledge, infrastructure and resources. It is for those entrepreneurial individuals eager to start a farming business that Farm Credit West supports programs like the Center for Land Based Learning.

For over twenty-five years the Center For Land-Based Learning (CLBL) has served as a resource for both new and aspiring farmers. Whether you’re thinking about transitioning into a career in agriculture, hoping to learn the latest techniques to increase crop yield, or looking for land to grow your farm business, CLBL can help you in this process.  As the organization settles into its new space in Woodland, there’s never been a better time to take advantage of valuable farming resources from CLBL.

“With our Farm Business Incubator we are literally trying to grow more farmers,” said Ric Murphy, who manages the program.  “We currently have some dynamic growers that are really making a name for themselves,” Murphy explained.

For several years Paul Boulware knew a place called the Center For Land-Based Learning existed, but had no idea it would play such an important role in his current life path.

“My in-law’s neighbor was very familiar with the organization and said I should reach out to them.  I knew I wanted to start my own farm, but wasn’t sure about where to find land,” Boulware said.  “Now I’m running my own business, Picnic Table Farm, and am constantly learning and growing from my fellow community of farmers and CLBL staff.”

Additional resources at the CLBL include the Explorer program, which serves as an introduction to a new career in farming.  And the Beginning Farmer Training program, a more dedicated, experiential learning platform.

“Both the Explorer and the Beginning Farmer Training are ideal first steps for someone who has been dreaming of farming for a while but did not know where to start. In their own ways, each program provides formative knowledge and helps guide participants to tangible next steps in their farming journey,” said Dr. Sridharan (Sri) Sethuratnam, Director of the California Farm Academy, a part of CLBL. 

Through a combination of online learning classes, farm tours and hands-on fieldwork, the seven-week Explorer program is designed to help aspiring farmers learn what it takes to start and manage an agricultural business, and decide whether this is a path they really want to take.

Their Beginning Farmer Training program goes even further by helping students decide exactly how to start their career in agriculture. It provides aspiring farmers a solid foundation from which to launch and grow their farm businesses. In this immersive educational program, students can gain farm production and business knowledge in a variety of settings that support different learning styles. Throughout their time in the program, the next generation of motivated, hard-working farm entrepreneurs gain the knowledge, skills, and confidence to begin working towards their farming goals.

Whether its learning about farming through the Explorer program, or having the confidence to craft a business plan from your time in the Beginning Farmer Training course, CLBL can help you in this process.  All of which can lead to starting a farm through the Farm Business Incubator program.

“Beginning farmers can lease land through the incubator program for up to four years.  Farmers are given access to land, water, resources and mentoring through CLBL.  As a business incubator, the core focus of the program is to provide beginning farmers with the skills and confidence to move on to their own land, making way for the next generation of farmers.  Beginning farmers usually start on ½ acre plots, which are available in Woodland and West Sacramento,” Murphy noted.

Farmers who have taken that leap into starting a business, like Boulware of Picnic Table Farm, having daily access to resources like business planning workshops and irrigations tips are invaluable.

“The Center For Land-Based Learning has been a tremendous asset to me.  My desire to produce beautiful, delicious vegetables is good for all involved.  From the healthy soil we’re creating, to the interns and volunteers in the field, to forces bigger than myself.  It’s a special place.  And farming is freedom for our family!” 

For more information on the many farming programs at the Center For Land-Based Learning, please contact Ric Murphy, Farm Incubator Program Manager at (530) 795-1520 or email him at: ric@landbasedlearning.org