Growing Growers ICT gears up for second year of educating fruit, vegetable farmers
Wednesday, Jan. 8, 2020
A farmer and a farm apprentice review information on a tablet while working in a hoop house full of tomato plants.
WICHITA — Growing Growers ICT, an innovative farmer education program based at K-State Research and Extension – Sedgwick County, is entering its second year of providing new and experienced fruit and vegetable growers with fresh energy and new ideas.
An informational meeting to learn all about Growing Growers ICT and the changes for the 2020 season will be from 4 p.m. to 5:30 p.m. Monday, Jan. 13, at the Sedgwick County Extension Education Center, 7001 W. 21st St. N.
The program's new website provides additional information at ictfoodcircle.org/growinggrowers.
Farmers interested in hosting and mentoring an apprentice are invited to submit a biography to be listed on the Growing Growers ICT website. Apprentice applications for the 2020 growing season are open as well.
On-farm apprenticeships and a workshop series are the two pillars of the program. Apprentices are mentored by seasoned farmers and get hands-on experience working on host farms. They also receive technical classroom training at workshops and the opportunity to see other operations during farm tours. "Combining classroom-style and experiential learning environments provides opportunities for all kinds of learners and growers, from new to experienced and urban to rural," said Lyndsay Feather, program manager for Growing Growers ICT.
The program is open to all types of people interested in starting their own fruit and vegetable farms and accepts all kinds of growing styles and approaches. Feather said apprenticeships have worked particularly well for individuals considering a mid-life career change, but anyone is welcome to apply and attend the workshops.
As one of the only programs of its kind in the state, Growing Growers ICT is on the cutting edge of developing new fruit and vegetable farmers in Kansas and has received positive feedback from participants during its first year in operation.
"The Growing Growers program was some of the best time I spent in 2019. It gave me so much needed information dealing with a wide array of subjects, from the importance of soil health or dealing with pests responsibly, to grafting tomatoes for better production or recordkeeping," said Lance Mead, a regular workshop participant and new farmer.
"The future is bright for Growing Growers ICT," Feather said. "The city of Wichita is in the beginning stages of writing a Food System Master Plan to unite and catalyze the growing local food economy, and Growing Growers is poised to serve as an important educational opportunity as the plan takes shape."