Our ERME Adventure
What is ERME?
The Extension Risk Management Education (ERME) program was formed out of the Agricultural Risk Protection Act of 2000. While the act was largely focused on amending and expanding the federal crop insurance protection, it also mandated the Federal Crop Insurance Corporation to create research initiatives, pilot projects, funding pools, and an education and assistance program. ERME established four regional extension centers for education, which are located at Washington State University, University of Nebraska - Lincoln, University of Delaware, and University of Arkansas.
The mission of the ERME program is to “educate America's farmers and ranchers to manage the unique risks of producing food for the world's table.” ERME fulfills its mission by funding education and training programs for farmers (typically through university extension services), maintaining an agricultural risk library, and providing grant funding to projects to develop resources, networks, and systems of support in order to mitigate the risks farmers face.
The team enjoyed exploring Omaha’s downtown and bonding with one another. Kate says, “We learned a lot about each other which will help us work together as a team more efficiently.” Ritchie enjoyed spending time with the Farmer Training team and "learning about each other’s interests, quirks, and patterns in various circumstances because the better we understand ourselves and each other, the more compassionate we can be and the more effective we will be together.”
To learn more about our Stateline Farm Beginnings® program, click here.
Miky Eum is the farmer and owner of Humbleweed Farm in Champaign, Illinois. She recently completed Farm Dreams Intensive, the first part of our three-part training program Stateline Farm Beginnings®. Helping farmers like Miky turn their farm dreams into reality is our goal, and we hope Miky's farm dream story inspires you as much as it does us.
During my first growing season as Humbleweed Farm, I had lots of ideas that I wanted to bring to life but didn’t have the tools or resources to achieve them. I also realized that I needed to improve my business skills. At first, I tried learning everything on my own. Having to frantically squeeze in all of the on and off-farm tasks on my own as a single-member LLC was overwhelming, and I needed help.
I learned about the Stateline Farm Beginnings® program from staff at The Land Connection in Champaign, Illinois. I signed up for the course because I knew I needed to take a step back from the nitty-gritty of my farm business and look at the bigger picture of the quality of life that I wanted for myself. I was burning myself out with my two off-farm jobs while starting my small farm business and I hadn’t realized it. I knew I wanted to be able to articulate my farm dream better and felt that having a support system that kept me accountable to do this deep soul searching would be beneficial. I cannot recommend the Stateline Farm Beginnings® course enough to new and aspiring farmers. The course is thoughtfully curated and structured, with lots of opportunities to practice sharing your farm story and your farm dream. The Farmer Training staff are personable and they really root for you to be successful. It is not an exaggeration when I say that I didn’t want to miss a single class because each class was valuable and fun. The aspiring farmers in my cohort were vastly supportive of each other and each one of them has made a positive impact in my farming journey. I know that I will be in touch with all of them even after we have completed the program at the end of this year.
My goal for my second growing season is to provide Korean chili powder to my customers. I have spoken to fellow farmers and have made some progress to find potential certified kitchens to launch this value-added product by the end of the year. Korean chili powder is used in most Korean dishes so I am very motivated to continue to produce delicious and clean Korean chili. Two more goals for this growing season are to launch a short trial summer CSA and to become an authorized SNAP retailer to be able to accept SNAP EBT payments from customers. I started going to the farmer’s markets in Champaign-Urbana because of this program and I believe it is very important to reach customers that are unfamiliar with the seasonal, local food movement. I am very much looking forward to the learning connections coming up in Stateline Farm Beginnings® as well. I am eager to expand my knowledge in effective record keeping, composting, and crop planning on a working farm. But most of all, I look forward to continuing to meet farmers that will inspire me to keep moving forward.
If you’re looking for a sign that it’s time to turn your farm dream into reality, this is it!
Stateline Farm Beginnings® is farmer led, community based, and rooted in sustainable agriculture. Cultivating a diverse network of aspiring and beginning farmers, the program gives participants a leg up in achieving viable farm dreams and fosters the growth of the regional farm leaders of the future.
Stateline Farm Beginnings® is a yearlong course, with 100+ hours of interactive class time and three courses: Farm Dreams Intensive
Cohort 1: January to March | Cohort 2: May to July
Skill Building Practicum
Cohort 1: March to October | Cohort 2: July to October
Farm Business Intensive
Cohorts 1 & 2: October to December
To learn more or apply for Cohort 2, visit our Stateline Farm Beginnings® page.
Our MOSES Adventure
The Midwest Organic & Sustainable Education and Service (MOSES) is a nonprofit organization that provides education, resources and expertise to organic and sustainable farmers. A cornerstone of their work is the annual MOSES Organic Farming Conference, the country’s largest conference on organic and sustainable farming, which takes place in La Crosse, Wisconsin.
Our native Floridian Farmer Training Program Coordinator, now frost-hardy upper Midwest transplant, Ritchie reported that he had “an immensely enjoyable time.” Not only was this the most time he has spent within leek-swinging distance with his organizational family since moving north, this was also the first time since the pandemic began that he had been in close company with so many immeasurably diverse food system people who have aligned and overlapping purposes, perspectives, and experiences. He thoroughly enjoyed learning about the use of topographically-tailored, wooded riparian buffers in surface water management. He was deeply grateful for the candor and solidarity within BIPOC sessions. And he was intrigued by both old and young farmer approaches towards, and their visions of, post-capitalist economies and organizations centered around informal currencies.
“Thanks again to the joyful people with whom we made and shared meals, those we’ve journeyed far with in confined spaces, the late-night visitors, friends we’ve bickered loudly amongst regarding horoscope accuracies, jousted sarcastically against over friendship rankings, cooperatively faced eviction with in light of food pairings, and confronted on all planes of over-amiability including the howling embarrassment of drooling mid-speech. Let’s all do better next year." - Ritchie
Vanessa Quiñones, the dynamic owner-operator of The Victory Garden Farm, joined Angelic Organics Learning Center’s farmer training community in 2014 as a Stateline Farm BeginningsⓇ participant. In 2021, the public voted her as Beginning Farmer of the Year, an award presented by Routes to Farm, an alliance of farmer training organizations across Illinois and Indiana.
The Victory Garden Farm sits on five beautiful acres in Fredonia, Wisconsin. The farm’s mission statement reads, “We strive to leave the land better than how we found it by increasing biodiversity and building strong sustainable systems. We supply our local community, friends and family with the healthiest, best tasting food possible.”
The farm operates a successful farm store, with products that have been featured on many local restaurant menus. Vanessa understands the need to continually pivot, and the viability of her farm grows each year. In 2021, despite the constraints of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, The Victory Garden Farm doubled in size and hired its first two employees. Her latest accomplishment? Vanessa went on vacation at the end of the 2021 growing season – something all farmers know as a feat to behold.
Vanessa masterfully balances her passion with the realities of the unforgiving trade. When asked what advice she would give to her younger self, Vanessa says, “Start small! Do not take on too many enterprises at once.” Great advice from a farmer who has learned to roll with the punches.
Keep up with Vanessa’s work by following The Victory Garden Farm on Facebook and Instagram.
about the Award
The Beginning Farmer of the Year award is sponsored by the collaborating Farmer Alliances in Routes to Farm, serving beginning farmers across the greater Chicago foodshed. Routes to Farm is generously supported by Searle Funds at The Chicago Community Trust.
Turning Farm Dreams Into Reality
The Class of 2021, friends, and family gathered both virtually and in person at McHenry County College on December 11th to celebrate this year’s Stateline Farm Beginnings® graduation. Stateline Farm Beginnings® is a year-long preparatory course in farm business planning. Rooted in the principles of holistic management and farm viability, participants take a wide-lens approach to their farm dream by exploring how to achieve their personal and professional aspirations. Graduation was a space for participants to share their farm plan with the group, give and receive feedback, and recognize their individual accomplishments from the year.
Peggy and Ari are software developers turned farmers. They have been accepted into Prairie Crossing Farm Business Development Center in Grayslake, Illinois, where they plan to launch Silver Fox Farm. Their principal product will be salad kits made with all local and sustainably grown ingredients. Follow along with them on Instagram @silverfoxfarmers.
You may recognize partners Andrea and Rebeca from our earlier post. Last year, Andrea enrolled in a three month course from Urban Triage, which she says, “opened my eyes to the depth of racism in Wisconsin and brought me to look deeper into racism in agriculture.” Together, Andrea and Rebeca are turning their dream of promoting equity in farming into reality by making their small farm available to farmers of diverse genders, sexualities, and racial and ethnic identities, who use the land and other farm resources to grow their own agriculture-based enterprises. Rebeca shared that, “It seems our dreams require a lot of work,” but their sleeves are already rolled up.
Yahdi is excited to launch Free Movement Farm. They say, “I fell into farming when I was googling careers to move my body more. I started volunteering on a farm, and it was the calmest I had ever felt.” In addition to producing food, Yahdi is planning a residential compost program where people give food scraps. They want to make composting more accessible in every way possible because, “nobody on this earth is free from the harm of being disconnected from the waste we produce.” Reflecting on Stateline Farm Beginnings®, Yahdi says, “This was like a year-long journal prompt. I had to reframe my dream into something that can support myself.” Follow their journey on Instagram @ugrowing2, and if you would like to support, head to Yahdi’s farm dream page on Go Fund Me.
Andy has six years of farm work experience and is excited to plan a farm of his own. While working on a livestock farm, he learned that his passion is in vegetable production. Andy has worked all over our region, and hopes to start his farm in the Milwaukee area.
“Whatever you can do, or dream you can do, begin it. Boldness has genius, power, and magic in it. Begin it now.”
Special thank you to the Center for Agrarian Learning at McHenry County College for hosting our hybrid sessions this year! Learn more about Stateline Farm Beginnings® here.
“I love being on the farm, but I know the reason I can be there is because of my privileges as a white, cis-gender woman that are denied to other people, and I can’t be at peace with that.” - Andrea
Q: What is your farm dream?
A: Our dream is to be an incubator-type farm for queer, Black, Latinx, Indigenous and other farmers who have historically been excluded from commercial agriculture in Wisconsin. We want to share our farmland and infrastructure so they can build up their business and capital without having to invest a lot up front. We’ll be mentors if they want that and do whatever we can to help their dreams come true. We plan to keep the land in the incubator style and have a nonprofit model. We currently have a farmer-partner who is starting his business on our farm, and he brings energy to the farm that we didn’t even know was missing.
Q: Describe one of your biggest learning moments during this course.
A: During the Farm Dreams Intensive course, it was eye opening to me to realize the power in putting time and energy into talking about, visualizing, and creating our farm dream. We are figuring out how to connect our passions and the change we want to see in the world into our farm. The dream started off as just a flicker. Each time we are asked to share our story, it gets bigger and brighter.
Q: Has Stateline Farm Beginnings® helped you overcome any challenges to reaching your farm dream?
A: The challenge was making our farm dream a priority, and this course has forced us to do that. For years we knew we wanted the farm to be something bigger than just the two of us, but between our jobs and everything else in life, it was hard to find time and energy to develop our farm dream. Committing to the SFB program makes it a priority. This experience helped us get over the fear of failing. One of the biggest benefits of this program is supporting one another. Being a part of this community’s passions feeds our own passion.
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.
Jannette Ortiz launched her farm business this past week and sold her products at the Vernon Hill Farmers' Market for the first time. Her business, Mindful Farm, offers soaps, plants and other goodies grown from her passion for natural skin care. Jannette says the foundation for her success is the Stateline Farm BeginningsⓇ program, led by Angelic Organics Learning Center.
Before Stateline Farm BeginningsⓇ, Jannette grew plants and gifted them to friends and family, helping them start their own gardens. At one point, she had 700 plants inside her house. Seeing people benefit from her plants made Jannette realize that she could turn this into a business. In listening to panelists and presenters in the Stateline Farm BeginningsⓇ program, Jannette was inspired to use her plants to make products. She started by using other people’s soap recipes and trying new methods, and now creates products with her own recipes.
In addition to soap and skin care products, Jannette sells her plants at the market. She says, “The Vernon Hills farmers market audience includes a lot of people who live in apartments, and they are grateful for plants that can thrive in a small space”. She loves to teach people about the benefits each plant offers. As Stateline Farm BeginningsⓇ encourages farmers to do, Jannette has found her niche of product and audience. Jannette completed the course with her boyfriend, and the two now reminisce about sitting around the fire with everyone at AOLC and feeling that the dreams they thought were impossible could actually come true. Jannette says being together with other aspiring and beginning farmers was motivational. She loves seeing other farmers succeed, and connecting with others inspires her to do more.
Jannette says she simply could not have done this if she had not gone through Stateline Farm BeginningsⓇ. Although her day job is in international business, she says the business plan training was critical to creating a sustainable foundation for her business. The pandemic interrupted the mentorship period of Jannette’s training, but she made the most of the down time by doing her homework- researching local markets, asking questions, getting creative with her website and becoming a USDA licensed nursery.
Mindful Farm products include goat milk soaps, vegan soaps, body butters and lip balms, with more products to be added throughout the summer. Jannette also grows and sells plants, including calendula, mint, red raspberry, Roman chamomile and plantain lilies. You can find Jannette’s Mindful products at her online store and at Vernon Hills Farmers Market every other Thursday, now through October at Century Park in Vernon Hills, Illinois. Her goals for the next year include participating in a local winter market and adding all her products to her website along with information and stories about the uses of her plants.
If you are considering launching or expanding your farm business, Stateline Farm Beginnings can help! The program is a part of the Farm Beginnings Collaborative® and has graduated nearly 300 sustainable farmers in our region.
The Farm Beginnings® model is emerging as the most effective way to increase the number of beginning farmers building food & farm economies that are green, fair, and healthy. Farm Beginnings® is approved as an educational provider through the Farm Service Agency (FSA). Completion of this course fulfills the educational requirements for FSA loan applicants.