Illinois SARE Grants

North Central Region SARE Grants

Sustainable Food, Fuel and Fiber

Contact Information:

Doug Gucker
3351 N. President Howard Brown Blvd.
Decatur, IL 62521

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Growing a New Generation of Illinois Fruit and Vegetable Farmers

Aspiring farmers, new growers with less than 5 years' experience, and commodity farmers interested in diversifying to include fruit or vegetable production 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. High school and community college agriculture teachers also are invited to apply. There is no registration fee for participants who complete this program.

The program for year one is full. We will begin reviewing applications for year 2 on July 1, 2013.

When classes begin they will run one Saturday a month from 9:00 am – 4:00 pm from December 2013 to November 2014. 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 Iillinois in Urbana

(3) at the Kane County Extension Office in St. Charles (in conjunction with the University of Illinois Horticulture Research Center nearby)

Our Goals:

  • Increase the number of new farmers producing fruits and vegetables throughout Illinois and enhance the viability, profitability, and sustainability of new and beginning enterprises to meet increasing demand for local produce and contribute to local economies.
  • In a parallel program, assist a specific target audience – seasonal Hispanic farm workers – in beginning viable, profitable, and sustainable small produce farms.
  • Increase the expertise of university extension educators, high school and community college teachers, and educators in community organizations so they can better aid new farmers.

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

We are currently developing the application process.  If you are or you know someone who is

a new commercial fruit or vegetable grower

interested in becoming a new fruit or vegetable grower

or a high school or community college teacher interested in more information