This year, seventeen small farms and eight aspiring farmers joined together with Countryside to be part of something incredibly special, the New Farmer Academy.

This is one of Countryside’s farm programs, now in its 4th year. The program is unique in that it is a multi-year opportunity for aspiring farmers to build career pathways in food and farming through paid internships, classroom learning, and on-farm experience provided by mentor farms of all types throughout northeast Ohio.

Not only does it foster the education and skill building needs of its interns, but it also helps the small, relatively new mentor farms by providing them with labor and the social network of the entire group. During a mid-year evaluation, one farmer stated, “All the support has been really amazing. We look forward to continued partnership and anything else we may be able to offer to the program.” Another said, “Thanks so much for bringing the gang to our farm today. They did such an amazing job with the projects we had set up and we are so impressed with how they work and how much we got done today. Can’t thank them enough.” The feedback from the mentors has been wonderfully positive.

This year, the farms have already received over 3,000 hours of labor through our new Farmer Academy, worth over $39,000, already doubling what we did last year.

The New Farmer Academy’s main campus is located on the Old Trail School Farm in Bath, Ohio. There, brand new interns learn the fundamentals of production agriculture by growing for the school and community. Last year the interns grew and harvested over 2,000 pounds of Organic produce, donating half of that to local food pantries during the pandemic.

Once an intern learns these valuable basic skills, they are matched with a mentor farm that aligns with their long-term farm goals and go to work on those farms. Mentor farms can also schedule project days where a group of interns can help them power through bigger projects like pruning, maple sugaring, sheep shearing, and more. These project days build community and are valuable for the farmers and the interns.

“I have really valued the opportunity to meet so many different people and see the many different aspects of local food production. I’ve gotten a sense of what farming entails for a lifestyle and having the opportunity to find a role that I can fill in this system.” said one intern. Another stated, “I believe that the SAGR program [a Countryside partner, LCCC]  in conjunction with the New Farmer Academy gives me the confidence to effectively grow food, as well as opens up the world with possibilities of what a farm or agribusiness could potentially be or look like.”

We have planted the seeds for the next generation of farmers and land stewards. Our goal for 2022 is to grow the number to 16 interns. Each session costs us approximately $15,000 per intern. We’ll need to raise $240,000 to make this happen.

Your gift today will help us not only train these new farmers and help support their farmland dreams, but it also helps to nurture the mentor farms, giving them the help that they need to grow their business. And of course, we all benefit from the amazing local food produced on these farms!

You can choose to sponsor an intern for a full season, half, or give a gift at any level, including a small monthly contribution. Just plant the seeds and watch them grow!

If you have a business and want to discuss sponsorship opportunities, or if you want to learn more, please reach out to me at temrick@countrysidefoodandfarms.org

Thank you so much!

Tracy Emrick

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