Farm to Fork

Attendees of the Food Works program Chef Talk with Josh Galliano pass around some of Galliano's food created for the event at Scratch Brewing Company in Ava on April 27.

MARION — Food Works is accepting registration for its next Farm Beginnings class through Oct. 2. Plus, for the first time, the class will meet in Williamson County.

Farm Beginnings is a farmer-taught, community-based program for people seeking to create sustainable small farm businesses. The 12-month program includes 48 hours of winter classroom seminars where experienced farmers and farm advisers share their expertise, eight farm education field days, a six-month mentorship, and a 12-month membership in Southern Illinois Farming Alliance.

Students will finish the course with a detailed, written business plan. Students will learn farm management skills, such as financing and marketing strategies, as well as forming short- and long-term goals. They will receive course books, binders and other materials.

Farm Beginnings is built on a model pioneered more than 20 years ago by the Land Stewardship Project in Minnesota and is now offered in 11 regions of the United States, including in three regions in Illinois. Nationally, the programs train hundreds of farmers every year. Farm Beginnings can also help people strengthen their qualifications for farm ownership and operating loans because of its robust financial planning components.

This is the first time the program has been offered in Williamson County. Seminars will meet from October through February in Marion and farms within the county. Interested people from Kentucky and Indiana are welcome to apply, along with Southern Illinois residents.

“Farm Beginnings grows farmers,” said Kathleen Logan Smith, executive director of Food Works. “With experienced farmers nearing retirement and a new generation of farmers needed, there’s opportunity in the market for beginning farmers to build sustainable small farm businesses and Southern Illinois Farm Beginnings is a proven way to do it.”

To apply, visit Food Works’ website: or call 618-370-3287. Seminars begin in October and meet until February. Students may enroll through Oct. 2.


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