Interview with On-Farm Educators Randy and Jessie
Like everything we do here, we think about future generations. - Randy Mermel
The ultimate goal of restoration work is listening to what the land needs.
To liberate the old growth oaks from invasive plants that were brought over since colonization.
To free the forest floor and let sunlight in.
If you would like to try a volunteer restoration workday for the first time, make sure to wear sturdy shoes and clothes that can get dirty. Dressing in layers is best because your body temperature changes with the labor. We provide the tools and fire to stay warm (weather permitting), and encourage you to bring water and snacks. Come on time so we can walk into the woods together. Please register in advance before attending a restoration work day so that we can contact you if any changes are made to the timing and location.
Farm Beginnings® is a farmer training model that is farmer-led, community based, and rooted in sustainable agriculture. The purpose of Farm Beginnings® is to help beginning farmers establish strong relationships with nearby farmers, businesses, resources, and customers within a community network that supports the local food and farming system. Farm Beginnings® programs support sustainable farming by promoting farming practices that are ecologically sound, economically viable, socially just, and achievable for new and beginning farmers. Farmers participate at all levels-- as steering committee members, classroom presenters, on-farm presenters, and on-farm mentors.
Angelic Organics Learning Center hosts Farm Beginnings® programming for the state line area of Southern Wisconsin and Northern Illinois-- Stateline Farm Beginnings®. Over the last 16 years, Stateline Farm Beginnings® has been a bedrock course for aspiring and beginning farmers in this area. Farmers learning from farmers is a core principle of the Farm Beginnings® model. With each graduating class, the pool of potential speakers to teach current Stateline Farm Beginnings® grows.
Three of the 2021 Stateline Farm Beginnings® participants at Angelic Organics Learning Center.
In recent years, the interests of new and aspiring farmers in our course have shifted. While livestock and vegetable farming are still central to most farm dreams, many new students are deeply interested in diversifying their offerings with enterprises like cut flowers, orchard fruits, mushrooms, hemp, and eco-tourism. While many plan to start their operation with less than five acres of land alongside an off-farm job, the opportunity for land access and growth is present and supported throughout the program.
In 2021, we reconfigured the course into three sessions - Farm Dreams Intensive, Skill Building Practicum, and Farm Business Intensive. This new model allows beginning farmers to pursue their farm dream at their own pace. Most recently, the course has moved to an online format. As we navigate through the changes in the pandemic, we continue to adapt the course. This fall, we are offering some keystone sessions in person, as safety permits.
Special thank you to On-Farm Program Director Laura Sjoquist and On-Farm Educators Jessie Crow Mermel and Randy Mermel for their leadership.