An update on the New Entry Sustainable Farming Project

by George Looby, DVM

For several years, the New Entry Sustainable Farming Project has been aiding individuals wishing to get started in farming with the information, support and training that they need to make the transition from their present line of work into the some area of agriculture. With headquarters in Lowell, MA this organization serves to assist those individuals in the greater Lowell area who wish to explore farming as a career field and acquire the necessary skills to make their choice a successful one. In the early years of its development the program’s focus was to help immigrant farmers make the anticipated difficult transition from the methods they used in their homeland to the technology used in this country. Today the scope of the program has expanded so that anyone with an interest can make use of the New Entry Program.

The New Sustainable Program exists within the complex workings of the Gerald J. and Dorothy R. Freidman School of Nutrition Science and Policy at Tufts University in Boston. The mission of the program is to support the vitality and sustainability of the region’s agriculture and to insure its long term economic self reliance and sustainability. It further serves to insure food security among the participants and their communities and expand the availability of high quality, culturally appropriate locally grown food. To achieve these goals, the key is to insure that there are well trained farmers prepared to achieve them and this is the purpose of the New Entry Program, which prepares new and beginning farmers for success through intensive training and technical assistance in all areas of farm training and management.

For those individuals who believe that they might like to farm but are a bit unsure, the program offers a workshop designed to help those individuals make the correct decision. This free workshop examines small scale farming opportunities in New England, the strategies that make successful farms and farmers and how the New Entry Program can help new farmers. For those individuals who take advantage of this opportunity and wish to advance to the next level, the program offers a Farm Business Planning Course twice a year in October and January. The fee for this course is $400 but applicants may be eligible for scholarships of up to $320 based on financial need. Subject matter covered in this course includes business plan and budget development, identification of market demand, crop planning, promotion of farm products and evaluation of materials, equipment and additional resources needed to run a successful farm business.

New Entry is now offering a self study course entitled Poultry Processing Online Training which is designed to help small scale poultry farmers understand the regulatory and food safety requirements for on farm poultry processing with emphasis on Massachusetts regulations.

To bring people into the New Entry Program, a recent program newsletter presented the story of two men who attended one of the Exploring Farming Workshops. At the time they enrolled, Steve Fowler and Rob Fortune did not know one another but shared a common goal of starting a vegetable operation. A year after taking the exploratory course, they entered the Farm Business Planning Course after which they went on to have something of a landmark season for new graduates. The area north of Boston is not an easy one in which to find land for a start-up operation, but they soon settled at Arrowhead Farm in Newberryport, MA. This farm is New Entries newest incubator farm and its location met the needs of these two new farmers. With the assistance of Eero Ruuttila, New Entries technical assistance coordinator, these two focused individuals got to work building a produce washing station, an innovative sprinkler irrigation system and a walk in cooler for storage of freshly picked produce. The first season, they planted one half acre of vegetables and, working in partnership with farm owner Dick Chase, planted another half acre to a low maintenance cover crop of oats and peas to improve soil fertility. The bonus of this cropping combination was that they were able to harvest and market high value pea tendrils.

Carefully planning their marketing strategy, they enlisted the aid of World People Enhancing Agricultural Sustainability (PEAS) CSA Coordinator Kate Petcosky as to which crops she was having the greatest difficulty in locating to supply her program. As a result of Kate’s input, they concentrated on growing greens, especially baby greens and braising greens together with beets and zucchini. For the 2014 season, the partners will up their acreage to a full acre.

Organizations such as New Entry are doing much to promote, encourage and support agriculture at the local and regional level and should be used as a model for those who are searching for a way to do the same in any given geographical area. The staff at New Entry would be happy to provide assistance to any group that might be looking for direction in establishing such a program. For details contact nesfp@tufts.edu

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