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Farm Dreams workshop explores future ag careers
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Farm Dreams workshop explores future ag careers

How do beginning farmers and agribusiness people get a start in farming or agribusiness? With all its pitfalls, risks, and joys – is it for everyone?

Several North Dakota farmers are joining other presenters in bringing a free virtual two-part Farm Dreams workshop on Oct. 28 and Nov. 4 from 6-8 p.m., CST.

“If you are dreaming of farming, whether starting a market garden or a hemp farm or dairy, and you’re unsure about how to get started, our Farm Dreams workshop is for you,” said Nora Larson, communications coordinator for Foundation for Agricultural and Rural Resource Management and Sustainability (FARRMS).

FARRMS is hosting the workshop for individuals deciding if starting an agribusiness or farm would be right for them.

“People are examining their priorities after workforce shifts and some might feel it’s the opportune time to start the market garden they have always wanted to,” Larson said. “Farm Dreams walks through the pros and cons of jumping into the farming world and leaves ‘farm dreamers’ with a clear picture of whether they should proceed with their business idea.”

Farm Dreams is a program for anyone interested in exploring their farm business ventures, from market gardening, bakery, farm to table, to agritourism and other farming ventures.

“Farm Dreams is designed to provide resources, connections, and perspective to empower you to take the first steps toward your farm dream,” she added.

The Farm Dreams workshop is planned to be a steppingstone to enrollment in FARRMS full Farm Beginnings farm business planning course, which will run during the winter.

“During the Farm Dreams workshop, you will start by watching our Farm Dreams video, complete the Farming Readiness Assessment, and put your farm dream on paper,” Larson said.

In the first part or the workshop, farm dreamers will discuss goal setting and they’ll meet a farmer who is living their farm dream.

In the part two of the workshop, farm dreamers will meet more North Dakota farmers who will discuss the successes and challenges of living their farm dreams.

Before attending a Farm Dreams workshop, Larson and the team at FARRMS recommend dedicating time to imagine and document your farm dream “as if it’s 5-10 years from now.”

Participants can document their farm dream by drafting short, 3-5 sentence descriptions, which they can share during the workshop.

  • Imagine the physical place that occupies your farm dream. Where is your farm? How much land does your farm need? What kinds of spaces? Are there buildings or other facilities? What storage do you have for tools, equipment, and supplies? Do you have special equipment? Do you source fertility/compost?
  • Visualize all that your dream farm produces. What do you produce – vegetables, fruits, livestock, fiber, flowers? Do you start your own seeds or purchase seedlings? Do you have a processing facility with cold storage or a certified commercial kitchen for producing prepared milk, cheese, honey, meats, herbs, or other value-added products?
  • Think about your farm dream customers. Who are your customers and what are they like? Where does your produce go? Is it sold to market and what kind of market – a farmer’s market, grocery store, wholesale, restaurants, direct to consumer?
  • Vision your farm dream lifestyle. How does it feel to be on your farm at different times of day and in different seasons? What does a day look like in your farm dream? Who is involved in your farm dream? What kinds of challenges are you excited to face

“We’ll also connect farm dreamers with resources so they can get started,” Larson said. 

Here are a few of these North Dakota farmers:

Raylene Nickel, who farms near Kief, N.D., grew up on a farm and raises grass-fed cattle and goats and sells dairy and beef.

“I always had the dream to work outside with livestock, to work out in the open, to work with plants and animals, mostly,” Nickel said.

She has a powerful message for those who might want to farm.

Nickel and her husband, John, came to North Dakota two years after their marriage to start a farm.

“We had soil erosion on the hills and John refused to till there,” Nickel said.

As their farm grew, they added cross fencing for rotational grazing, planted trees, and fed cows with draft horses in the winter so that the manure and urine would be grounded into and spread across the soil.

The Nickels went through drought, crop failures, financial problems and cow herd shrinkage, but they kept plowing ahead with sustainable, no-till farming.

“The soil grew the plants. The plants fed the cattle, horses, and goats and provided our garden, and the cattle and goats provided our beef and dairy products,” she said.

Stephanie Blumhagen, of Meadowlark Granary in Bottineau, N.D., operates a home-based milling and bakery business.

“I use the wheat and flax from my family’s farm near Drake (N.D.) to produce whole wheat flour, baking mixes, breads and baked goods,” she said.

Glen Philbrick of Hiddendale Farm in Tuttle Lake, N.D., is a fourth-generation family farmer, and his family produces a wide variety of specialty crops, certified organic vegetable and flower seeds, and certified organic CBG hemp.

“Cattle graze the pastures during the summer and provide high quality grassfed meat,” Philbrick said.

Amber and Ross Lockhart of Heart and Soil Farm in Grandin, N.D., operate a sustainably-minded farm in the Red River Valley. They sell vegetables and eggs through farmers markets and wholesale.

“We are dedicated to working with others to promote research and small-scale agriculture in North Dakota,” Amber said.

Apryl and Adam Mawby own gardendwellers FARM and gardendwellers RANCH near Bisbee, N.D. They operate a regenerative no-till farm/ranch that grows herbs, fruits, flowers and lamb products.

“We sell freeze-dried herbs right now with the Pride of Dakota label,” Adam said.

Farm Dreams is funded through various grants from USDA, and Farm Beginnings is a certified borrower-training program of USDA FSA loans.

Since FARRMS started, more than 175 farmers have completed their Farm Beginnings courses.

To read more about Farm Dreams and to register for the free workshop, see www.farrms.org/dream.

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