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Farm Beginnings grads will celebrate Saturday

By John Weiss

Post-Bulletin, Rochester MN

Farm Beginnings was begun, appropriately, by farmers.

More than a decade ago, some successful farmers who had smaller operations that focused on organic farming or direct marketing decided they needed to reach out to others who would want to learn what they know.

They talked with the Land Stewardship Project, which promotes small-scale, low-impact farming, said Amy Bacigalupo, LSP Farm Beginnings lead organizer for prairie region of western Minnesota. Project officials agreed it was a good idea and began to organize classes, with the founding farmers forming the core of the committee.

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Since then, about 400 people have graduated, including some who will celebrate their class completion Saturday near Canton. The program is also being expanded into Illinois, Nebraska and Missouri.

The term "farmer" is used rather loosely. Some go for more the meat and potatoes kind of farming, but others look to cut flowers, growing native trees in nurseries and growing vegetables that are delivered fresh each week to those who contract for the service, Bacigalupo said.

The core principle of this core group is "whole farm planning," she said. That involves not only what to grow, but also how, how much time you want to spend on it and how much time with your family. It connects growers to a network of other growers who can help with support and advice for the low-cost sustainable farming methods.

Increasing growers’ connection to their land by treating it as more than a way to make money "is a big piece of it," she said. Growers learn to make decisions about their impact on the land, water quality as well as their finances.

For more information, go to Postbulletin.com/weblinks

Farm Beginnings program

http://www.farmbeginnings.org

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