TRAINING PROGRAM OVERVIEW
The Frostburg Grows Farmer Training Program is a 2 week, intensive program for aspiring farmers, those looking to diversify their current operations and food system advocates. Our program features a balance of hands-on, skills-based learning, along with in-depth classroom education on a diversity of sustainable agriculture topics ranging from infrastructure to marketing and entrepreneurship. We provide an immersive and intimate experience with farmers and farm work, but you will also spend time with other key players in the sustainable food movement. Thus, the course will also be valuable to those interested in working toward a more equitable, environmental and economic food system whether it be through advocacy or education.
We are unique in our ability to offer education on a large spectrum of agricultural topics. The Frostburg Grows site itself features six large high tunnels, a native tree nursery, a composting and vermiculture facility and wet cells. In addition, our renewable energy system is being expanded and our aquaculture/aquaponics operation is currently under construction. We are also fortunate to have a colorful patchwork of vibrant local farms; we have included visits to a number of these to offer a broader perspective on farm models, specialization and business operation. (Take a look at our awesome food / farm partners here).
WHO IS THIS PROGRAM DESIGNED FOR?
This program is designed for individuals interested in learning about sustainable agriculture practices and gaining the practical knowledge they need to start their own farm. WOOFERS, new and beginning farmers, urban and community gardeners, educators, undergrads and recent grads would all benefit from participating in this focused and stimulating program. Whatever your level of experience, you can expect to be challenged to consider how you fit in with the shift to a truly sustainable food system that benefits both people and our environment.
1. Give participants a diverse look at the landscape of small scale farming as a vibrant, lucrative and sustainable business.
2. Equip participants with the resources and solid practical and entrepreneurial skills to develop and start their own farm or support others in doing so.
3. Provide participants with an understanding of the current local food system, players, pinch points, needs and levers that can be applied to efforts within their distinct goals within sustainable agriculture as related to health, economy or the environment.
4. Expose participants to state-of-the-art leadership training that will provide highly valuable insight and knowledge useful in creating the change you want to see.
FROSTBURG GROWS STORY
The idea of developing a training center for growing local food actually began way back in 2005, as part of the Highlands Action Program (HAP) created by EPA Region III. The purpose of HAP was to create environmental restoration that also had social, cultural and economic benefits—our project does that and much more! But funding was scarce, and much effort was expended trying to fit our vision with funding opportunities. Along the way, we shared our vision and began to enlist partners in our quest. We are ever-grateful for an $11,000 investment from the Georges Creek Watershed Association to provide matching funds for a design grant the Appalachian Regional Commission. With that small grant in hand, we began the process of lining up a suitable location and a larger grant to build a facility.
To be consistent with our goal of having big-time environmental and economic benefits, our ‘ideal’ location would need to be environmentally degraded and near or in a high poverty area. With the signing of a land lease contract in summer 2012, a twice mined hill top which was used as a dump and later as a FEMA trailer park became the land upon which Frostburg Grows would grow. We finished initial construction at the end of 2014 and in early 2015 began life as an operating not-for-profit farm and experiential learning center.
OUR MISSION AND GOALS
Frostburg Grows works to improve the local food system through sustainable agricultural practices, farmer training, and food system work on the local and regional levels. Our efforts are part of a larger push in the region to develop a food council to address issues of food insecurity, food deserts, availability of local food and food policy.
Our short-term aspirational goal is to…
• increase local food to 10% by 2017 (the current rate in Western Maryland is between 1-2%). Over time we will increase jobs in local agriculture and the number of local growers, all while creating
win- wins for food, health, community and environment.
Our work is guided by the belief that a truly sustainable system can only exist with a balanced triple bottom line- People, Economy and Environment. In developing our action plan and training programs we strive to take steps that will not only improve the ecosystem but also create permanent, sustainable high quality jobs.