SFA supports an award-winning beginning farmer educational program, the Deep Roots Farmer Development Program.
Courses include Farm Skills 101, an intensive semester of skills training, as well as various short courses throughout the year.
A much-needed beginning-farmer curriculum that emphasizes all three tenets of sustainability, all Deep Roots courses provide extensive skills training. A unique aspect of Deep Roots is its commitment to community development and mentoring, a perfect fit with SFA’s Farmer-to-Farmer Network® organization.
Instructors are all farmer-educators: Sue Wika, PhD; Tom Prieve, DVM; Kent Solberg, MS; and Ryan Pesch, MS. Each possesses both real-world experience and the educational background to provide comprehensive sustainable food production education.
Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org or 1.844.922.5573 Ext. 4.
Farm Skills 101 is detailed below. For quick links to our other Deep Roots classes:
- Short Course: Wintering Livestock
- Short Course: Deep Winter Greenhouse
- Short Course: Introduction to Homestead Dairy
- Short Course: Introduction to Small Ruminant Husbandry
Farm Skills 101 Scholarships
SFA member Katy Olson has created a scholarship, funded by the Universal Unitarian Church of Underwood, to provide financial aid to an individual committed to sustainability in agriculture, who also demonstrates leadership and communication skills. This scholarship will fund full Farm Skills 101 tuition for one student or half tuition for two students. Scholarship applications are not being currently accepted.
For prospective students from Dodge, Fillmore, Freeborn, Goodhue, Houston, Mower, Olmsted, Rice, Steele, Wabasha and Winona counties: The Rochester Area Foundation has gained a scholarship that supports education in sustainable agriculture and forestry and may be applied to Deep Roots education for current ag practitioners. The 2016 deadline has passed, but future funds may be available. To learn more, visit protectourresources.org.
Farm Skills 101
This course covers the hands-on essential skills necessary for a forage-based livestock producer. Elevate your handiness while building community and competence.
Farm Skills 101 consists of around 50 hours of on-farm education in three weekends of fun and fulfilling learning. These are days in the field, not field days. Participants will need pants, closed-toe shoes, gloves and safety glasses.
Deep Roots programs include small class sizes and individualized attention. Every student engages in the activities. This is real-world, real-time education.
Also, all students receive a free one-year SFA membership – benefits include various conference and event discounts, the CornerPost magazine, and more.
Deep Roots tuition is nonrefundable.
Farm Skills 101 Diary
Fall 2015 Farm Skills 101 student Cassi Dutcher kept a diary about her experiences – click the links below to read more.
- Week One: Practical Knowledge Already Absorbed
- Week Two: Fencing as Practical Art Form
- Week Three: Birth, Butchering, and Bearings
Here is a sampling of some likely topics to be covered during Farm Skills 101. Though the list may change, these are some of the basic elements that represent the depth and breadth of the program.
1. Fencing Strategies for Forage-based Livestock Systems
- Principles and components
- Corner and end brace design
- Portable, electric fencing options
- Permanent fencing options
- Maintenance and repairs
- Creative options
- How to “keep them in!”
- Parasite management – quantitative fecal exams, FAMACHA
- Estimating weight
- Foot trim
- Health assessment
- Basic vet care
- Flight zone and pivot point
- Butchering and home processing
- Common pasture plant and forage plant identification
- Water systems
- Managing the grazing season
- Principles of grazing strategies
- Incorporating annuals
- Estimating paddock carrying capacity
- Principles of Stacking
- Legal descriptions and plat books
- Hooking up hydraulic hoses
- Use of three-point hitch
- Implement identification and use
- Farm tools identification and use
- Farm carpentry, plumbing and electrical skills
Clark Parkhurst & Yvonne Baller, 2014 Graduates:
“SFA has been the most helpful thing for us as we plan for our transition to the farm. The farm visits and conferences have put us in contact with people who are engaged in the sustainable farming practices we wish to pursue, and the Deep Roots farming class gave us invaluable experience in basic farming skills as well as allowing us to tap the experience and knowledge of the instructors Kent, Sue and Tom.”
Dan Fabian, 2013 Graduate:
“In the spring of 2012, I decided to take a sabbatical from my 29-year career as a Civil Engineer doing water resource engineering and learn how to farm. As an engineer I needed to know both the “how” and the “why” farmers did what they did. I also knew that I learned best by “hands-on doing” in addition to lecture.
“To be of value for my career it needed to be a formal certified program offered by a credible organization and a college was my first choice. Having lived my entire life in town I had very little experience with farming and needed to learn an entirely new set of skills to have the confidence to pursue my farm dreams.
“Fortunately I stumbled across the “M-State Sustainable Food Production Program” (Now SFA Deep Roots) which just happened to be right in my home state of Minnesota at Fergus Falls. Having now completed the program I can say it not only satisfied my initial criteria, it far exceeded my expectations.
“Not only did I learn how to operate a tractor, loader, no-till drill, roto-vator, milk cows, milk goats, care for cows, goats, pigs, chickens, sheep and horses; I also learned about the sociological underpinnings of the current agricultural system, crops and forages, wrote a business plan, learned to add value to the food produced through direct sales or by making various artisan food products like cheese, canned goods, yogurt, butter, butchered chickens and other animals.
“But perhaps most importantly, I began to develop my support community of people and resources that I can call on as I continue on my journey into sustainable agriculture.”
Nicole Moore, 2013 Graduate:
“Skill development within this curriculum directly empowers the student. Physical involvement in a process makes a lasting impression, allowing the student the space and time to discover questions or thoughts related to the experience that would otherwise have never been conceived if she or he had only read or heard about the process.
“With this approach, students walk away with tangible, demonstrable skills. What’s more effective a learning tool than, at the end of the session, being able to walk onto your own property and build yourself a reliable fence? Can’t beat that.”