As anyone who has developed a new skill knows, there is no better way to learn than by doing. This is why the farmers within the Red Hills Small Farm Alliance (RHSFA) started the first Collaborative Regional Alliance for Farmer Training (CRAFT) chapter in Florida.
CRAFT was created in upstate New York in 1994 as an opportunity for beginning farmers and farm interns to learn farming techniques from other farmers within the region. This effort spread throughout the country, with many farmer groups and organizations starting their own CRAFT chapters focusing on the education and skills needed to farm in their particular region.
The RHSFA (a non-profit formed by local farmers in the Big Bend Region of the Panhandle in 2010) believes that strengthening the skills of individual farmers in our community improves the small farming community as a whole. By sharing insights these farmers discovered while farming, teaching learned skills and techniques, and acting as mentors for each other, the RHSFA believes its members can have a positive impact on local agriculture, and in turn, reach more citizens to expand the local food market throughout our region.
CRAFT workshops encompass a variety of competencies, including not only physical skills, such as how to use farming equipment or build a compost pile, but also financial skills, such as how to set prices and be successful at farmer’s markets. As anyone who has attempted to start their own business knows, it is not only the quality of the product created that is important, but also the ability to fund the creation that is crucial to the success of the business.
For this reason, the most recent CRAFT workshop was all about grant writing and management. Christina Lynch, a business consultant and Red Hills Small Farm Alliance board member, taught farmers how to know whether grants are right for their business, how to apply for grants, and how to manage the funds once they are received.
Upcoming CRAFT workshops include Seed Variety Selection and Seed Saving on January 28, hosted by Turkey Hill Farm, and Cost of Production and Setting Your Prices on February 11, hosted by Full Earth Farm and Native Naturals at the UF/IFAS Leon County Extension Office.
Learn more about the trainings, see details about upcoming workshops, and register at the Red Hills Small Farm Alliance CRAFT website: https://www.redhillsfarmalliance.com/red-hills-craft-workshops.
And while the goal of CRAFT is to encourage farmer-to-farmer education and networking, the RHSFA knows that the way to recruit new farmers for future generations is to show them the value of local agriculture to everyone by providing opportunities for all citizens to learn just what it takes to grow the food we eat. This is why CRAFT workshops are available for all to attend, even if you yourself are not (yet!) a farmer.