Date(s) - 07/21/2023 - 09/01/2023
Food Works announces that enrollment is open for the upcoming 2023-2024 Southern Illinois
Farm Beginnings Program. Applications (including scholarship applications) are due by
September 1, 2023 for the program beginning in October 2023.
This educational program helps new and beginning farmers in Southern Illinois build
entrepreneurial, sustainable small farm businesses and is open to anyone wanting to engage in
sustainable farming or cottage food industry. The program is farmer-led and provides education
and technical assistance for new and beginning farmers and ranchers with less than 10 years of
experience. Farm planning is approached based on the principles of holistic farm management
for decisions that are economically, environmentally and socially sound – “the triple bottom line”.
The program provides education and information for beginning and transitioning farmers and
ranchers in three key ways:
● Seminars focused on building a holistic farm vision, financial management, and
marketing (online and in-person meetings).
● On-farm field days and online meetings with experienced farmers, exploring
on-the-ground sustainable farming practices in specialty crops and humane animal
husbandry, and accessing land and resources to support a new farm
● One-on-one mentorship with a successful farmer
The upcoming program runs October 2023-May 2024. Participants will learn skills to a business
and marketing plan for their small farm or food business, and receive a one year membership to
the Southern Illinois Farming Alliance network of sustainable farmers.
This program is for adults in the 23 southernmost counties of Illinois who are ready to actively
build their own thriving entrepreneurial farm or local food business. Today’s “beginning farmer”
can come from any background, and includes people producing a wide variety of foods and
fibers. The program has a special focus on increasing diversity within farming in Southern
Illinois by recruiting first generation farmers, women, people of color, veterans, members of
the LGBTQ community, and low-income beginning farmers. A commitment to sustainability and
community building around local food systems is a core value in the program. New farmers do
not need to own land before entering the program.
“Some of the biggest barriers for people entering the field of agriculture are knowledge and
access to resources. Through this program, beginning farmers get support building a viable farm
plan and many opportunities to learn directly from fellow farmers. The program also offers other
forms of support for beginning farmers, including scholarships, help purchasing start-up
supplies, and travel assistance,” said Food Works’ Executive Director Jennifer Paulson. “By
offering these resources we hope to create a more equitable playing field for beginning farmers
from diverse backgrounds.”
Jennifer Duensing, the Coordinator for the Food Works’ Farm Beginnings programs, shared her
thoughts about the program. “Many new farmers don’t come from a farming background but
they have passion to become part of the farming community and care about doing it sustainably.
Beginning Farmers in the program may need help overcoming barriers to farming and support in
the form of education and mentorship. They may be currently involved or interested in
beekeeping, raising animals for meat or eggs, becoming orchardists, growing vegetables or
herbs for market, growing food grade grains, or growing perennial crops such as elderberries or
grapes. We are excitedly looking for those who are serious about taking steps towards actively
farming in the next year.”
To learn more and to complete an application for the 2023-24 program, visit
https://www.fwsoil.org/farm-beginnings/. Applications are due September 1, 2023.
Applications may be submitted online or printed and mailed to Food Works PO Box 3855,
Carbondale, IL 62901. Applicants will be accepted based on their readiness to begin farming by
the end of the program in August of 2024 and program capacity. Applications from diverse
backgrounds are encouraged to apply, including women, people of color, members of the
LBGTQ community, veterans, and low-income beginning farmers. Applicants are encouraged to
reach out with any questions to Jennifer Duensing, Coordinator of Farmer Training Programs at
About Food Works
Food Works is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization dedicated to creating a sustainable food economy in
Southern Illinois. Through farmer training and consumer education, Food Works promotes long-term
farming networks that create healthy soils, healthy food, and healthy communities in the 23 counties that
make up Southern Illinois. (www.fwsoil.org)
Food Works offers five main food and farming programs for Southern Illinois: The Food Works Mobile
Farmers Market; The winter Carbondale Community Farmers Market; The Southern Illinois Link Hub that
assists farmers markets to accept SNAP and Link Match to support equitable healthy food access; The
Southern Illinois Farming Alliance, an educational and communication network of Southern Illinois
farmers; and Farm Beginnings®, an intensive training program for beginning and transitional farmers,
which aims to create financially solvent and flourishing local farms through education and mentorship.