Farming ‘business boot camp’ teaching the next generation about agriculture

Click to play video: 'Online farming bootcamp helps next generation get started' Online farming bootcamp helps next generation get started
It can be tough to dive into a new career: especially one that takes you from the city to the country. Morgan Black explains how a new generation of farmers is getting a head start with the Young Agrarians "farming bootcamp." – Jan 22, 2021

A career change can be a bit overwhelming, and that’s especially true if you’re diving into the world of farming.

Many farmers enter the world of agriculture through family ties, but a new program aims to help those brand new to the practice.

Young Agrarians, a farmer to farmer educational resource network for new and young farmers in Canada, has created an online program to help bridge the gap.

Alexandra Pulwicki is the e-learning co-ordinator for the organization. She said the number of first-generation farmers is quickly growing.

“These people who want to grow food for their communities need support,” she said. “We are really trying to create a whole set of programs for people who are interested in farming.”

The “apprenticeship program” offers participants the opportunity to go out to a farm and learn the day-to-day routine of running a farm.

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“These (new farmers) are coming in with fresh ideas, new perspectives, access to markets in the city because that’s where they are coming from,” Pulwicki said.

The Business Bootcamp for New Farmers is for individuals who are ready to start their own farm.

The 10-week course helps participants learn financial planning, marketing and farm setup. Each session holds 30 participants with a sliding scale charge of $250 and $350.

Read more: ‘They are part of my heart:’ Family cattle business built on hard work and love

“The boot camp is taught by more than 15 speakers who share their expertise,” Pulwicki said. “We bring in people who can tell us what it’s like to actually start your own farming business.”

She said the Young Agrarians apprenticeship program can help people learn more about “almost every farm you can imagine,” including veggie gardens, cattle or chicken farms.

“It’s a huge amount of information,” Pulwicki said. “(Without that), it’s very easy to make a lot of mistakes.”

The program was launched in January, and the two sessions offered quickly filled up.

Jill Barvir is currently enrolled in the online boot camp. She was completing her university degree in Calgary when she realized she wanted to enter the world of farming.

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Jillian Barvir building her first compost pile. Courtesy: Jillian Barvir

“I was taking a bunch of human nutrition courses,” Barvir said. “I got really interested in food security and producing my own food.”

After graduation, she spent time working and being mentored on farms. She now lives in Onoway, Alta., where she is working on building a community garden.

“My goal is to farm two acres of land,” Barvir said. “I am starting from scratch. I have to build infrastructure and I have to build the soil.”

The 24-year-old said the boot camp has provided a wealth of knowledge that she wasn’t able to easily access elsewhere.

“It’s a huge learning curve. Essentially I am 20 years behind generational farmers who were learning how to do this since they were in the womb,” Barvir laughed.

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Read more: ‘Historic’ $815M irrigation investment announced for southern Alberta agriculture

“We hope with this program that participants are able to take their first steps. Start at a small scale and maybe next year have a plan to scale up,” Pulwicki said. “You’re also connecting with peers and you can share information.”

Barvir said the experience has already been extremely rewarding.

“It’s so worth it. It is an incredibly rich life and I’m just beginning. It’s very important the work the world needs right now. The more people we have in the community, the stronger it’s going to get.”

You can sign up for the next session’s waitlist here.

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