New 10-week bootcamp preps aspiring farmers to break into the industry

·2 min read

Farming in Canada has long been filled with family and legacy farms bringing new workers into the industry, but a new program for aspiring farmers aims to offer a helping hand to the industry's next generation.

The Business Bootcamp for New Farmers is a new program created by Young Agrarians, a farmer-to-farmer educational resource network that started in 2012. The program offers lessons for new and aspiring farmers from experts in the field.

Alexandra Pulwicki, e-learning coordinator for Young Agrarians, said her organization noticed a lot of the available resources were geared toward conventional, large-scale farms with one or two crops. But they heard from a lot of aspiring farmers, Pulwicki said, who were interested in diversified farms and had backgrounds outside the industry.

"There's just kind of an eagerness in the people who have signed up to get going," Pulwicki said on CBC Edmonton's Radio Active on Wednesday afternoon. "But it seems like there's this barrier of not knowing where to turn for supports. This kind of small-scale diversified farming is different than conventional agriculture."

The program covers 10 topics over as many weeks, teaching new farmers about the market, business structure and financing for farms, among other things. Each camp has 30 spots, and sign-ups are charged on a sliding scale between $250 and $350.

The bootcamp was launched at the start of January, but Pulwicki says it filled up so quickly with a long enough waitlist that Young Agrarians is already starting a second program in February.

Instructors in the program include ranchers, florists, marketing and finance experts, and a variety of farmers from across western Canada.

Pulwicki says roughly two-thirds of new farmers in Canada are coming from non-farming backgrounds, which represents a dramatic change from previous generations, who mostly grew up on a farm or had relatives working in the industry.

Having that family history in farming makes for a smoother transition that many new farmers today don't have.

But less than 10 per cent of farmers in Canada are 35 or younger, Pulwicki said, meaning there's a lot of land and knowledge that will need to be passed on in the coming years.

"Right now we're really seeing a surge of people coming often from cities who want to grow food and provide for their communities," Pulwicki said.

"There's a big transition of farming knowledge that needs to happen, and a big group of new farmers that need to come up and take the reins of these farms."