January 2018
Farm & Field

Tools and Training for New Farmers

AAMU launches a new project to assist Alabama’s beginning farmers.

The Small Farms Research Center in the College of Agricultural, Life and Natural Sciences at Alabama A&M University is proud to launch a USDA/National Institute of Food and Agriculture-funded project to assist agricultural producers in Alabama. The project will provide education and training to all producers, with a special focus on new and beginning farmers and ranchers. The project is led by Dr. Duncan M. Chembezi, who also directs AAMU’s SFRC. Chembezi will be supported by Ms. E’licia L. Chaverest, program manager within SFRC, and Mr. Robert Spencer, a small animal specialist with Alabama Cooperative Extension System.

"AAMU will implement the project with the goal of establishing targeted and specialized training, education, outreach and technical assistance initiatives addressing the needs of beginning farmers," Chembezi emphasized. "The project’s long-term goal is to grow and assist the next generation of farmers, ranchers and rural entrepreneurs who will use the experience, skills and land stewardship to improve and enhance sustainability, productive capacity and profitability of farms and ranches."

Chembezi acknowledged that the project builds on AAMU-SFRC’s existing resources, successes and effective partnerships with nonprofits, community-based agricultural organizations and experienced farmers to provide beginning farmers and ranchers with easily accessible tools and practical, experience-based training in farm production, marketing, land management, business planning and financial resources.

Key project partners collaborating on the project include the Alabama Agricultural A+ Marketing Association, Booker Farm in Toney, Federation of Southern Cooperatives, Staysail Group, LLC in Bessemer/Birmingham, Southern Sustainable Agriculture Working Group and Alabama Cooperative Extension System.

Through this project, new and beginning farmers and ranchers will be able to:

  • Access critical resources, advice and useful information through a web-based and online resource center for effective and timely production, marketing and financial decisions.

  • Explore farming options, understand the components of a successful farm operation and make decisions about what enterprises best fit their interests.

  • Refine participant’s farm interests, understand the requirements and strategies of different, new or alternative farm enterprises and begin developing plans for assessing resources needed to implement a farm plan.

  • Develop specific farm production and business plans, and obtain needed resources to begin a farm enterprise.

  • Provide targeted, technical assistance and outreach training to expand production and access niche markets for specialty crops and livestock, especially small ruminants (goats, sheep, rabbits and pastured poultry).

  • Implement farm plans, start new or alternative agricultural enterprises and continue as successful beginning farmers, ranchers or rural entrepreneurs.

The project is currently recruiting new and beginning farmers and ranchers, in Alabama, who are interested in gaining a better appreciation of the art and science of farming before they start their own farming operations. A beginning farmer, by definition, is an individual who has been engaged in production agriculture or agribusiness for less than 10 years. If you meet this eligibility criterion and would like to find out more about the project and its services, please call Project Director Duncan M. Chembezi (This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.) or Assistant Director E’licia L. Chaverest (This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.) at 1-866-858-4970 or 1-256-372-4970.