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Growing a New Generation of Illinois Fruit and Vegetable Farmers

Aspiring Illinois farmers, new growers with less than five years’ experience, commodity farmers interested in diversifying to include fruit or vegetable production, high school and community college agriculture teachers, and community garden managers are invited to apply for our year-long training program.

In the fall of 2012, the University of Illinois began the first year of a 3-year project funded by the USDA NIFA's Beginning Farmer Rancher Development Program to increase the number of commercial fruit and vegetable farmers in Illinois.

We will provide year-long programs of classroom and hands-on in-field instruction on essential skills and information so that new growers have the knowledge to be successful fruit or vegetable farmers.

Programs will be offered in southern, central, and northern Illinois

Classes run one Saturday a month from 9:00 am – 4:00 pm from December to November. Potential participants can apply to one of three locations

(1) the University of Illinois Dixon Springs Agricultural Center in southern IL near Simpson
(2) the campus at the University of Illinois in Urbana
(3) at the Kane County Extension Office in St. Charles (in conjunction with the University of Illinois Horticulture Research Center nearby)


Year 1:     December, 2012 – November 2013
Year 2:     December, 2013 – November 2014
Year 3:     December, 2014 – November 2015 (Applications open July 1, 2014)

Instruction will include …

  • land acquisition and transfer
  • business planning
  • legal issues
  • insurance
  • marketing
  • farm safety
  • food safety
  • Farm to School
  • equipment operation & safety
  • transplant production
  • high tunnel construction and operation
  • irrigation
  • soils and soil testing
  • cover crops and tillage
  • variety evaluations
  • pest and disease scouting
  • integrated pest management
  • pesticide application
  • pruning and thinning
  • harvest practices
  • postharvest handling
  • conventional and organic production methods
  • visits to established produce farms
  • discussions with experienced farmers
  • access to incubator plots

Read about some of the students from year one.
Press release

Questions?  Contact:   Dr. Richard Weinzierl   217-244-2126 or
Mary Hosier    217-333-7512

This project is supported by the Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program of the National Institute of Food and Agriculture, USDA, Grant # 2012-49400-19565.