New U of I farm apprenticeship turns out veggies and well-equipped farmers

URBANA, Ill. – A new University of Illinois program will train beginner specialty crop growers in every aspect of farm operation and management. The year-long Illinois Small Farm Apprenticeship Program offers new farmers opportunities to learn by doing and to deepen that experiential knowledge with lessons from faculty experts in soil science, pest management, and more.

“Most people, when they start out, go to work for an established farmer or maybe attend a few weekend conferences. But we are training people intensively for a full year to give them the complete picture of running a farm business. They’ll walk away with the horticultural knowledge, business skills, and people-management skills to start their own farm or become a valuable employee on an existing farm,” says Matt Turino, manager of the Sustainable Student Farm and research specialist in the Department of Crop Sciences at Illinois.

Turino says most similar programs at universities or farmer non-profits are much shorter – running about six months – but that leaves out important learning moments during the so-called “off season.”

On-the-job training also tends to fall short on deep-dive learning with experts in their fields. But the Illinois Small Farm Apprenticeship Program partners with world-class U of I research faculty to round out apprentices’ education on the farm.

To apply, please send a letter of interest by Oct. 15 to program director, Matt Turino at illinois-ssf@illinois.edu, describing your interest in the program and the skills and experience you would bring (previous experience not required, but a bonus). The program starts Jan. 23, 2023, and costs $6,000 for the full year. 

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