OSU: Training for urban farmers

Weston Miller and Willow Aevery, BUFA 2011 (Photo by Lynn Ketchum)

Oregon State University is accepting applications for its eight-month training program in the Portland area for aspiring urban farmers.

Now in its third year, the Beginning Urban Farmer Apprenticeship (BUFA) program was developed by the OSU Extension Service and Multnomah County for people with little to no farming experience.

Applications are being accepted through Jan. 13. Classes start April 3. To apply, go to the BUFA 2013 Application website. Applicants do not need to be residents of Multnomah County.

Participants can enroll in two tracks: one consisting of about 550 hours of instruction and another that’s about 120 hours but doesn’t have in-field training. Space is limited to 20 students for track 1 and 10 for track 2.

Students in the longer track take classes on Wednesday evenings, attend field trips on Saturdays and help at a farmers market on Sundays. They also work at the Learning Gardens Laboratory in southeast Portland and Multnomah County’s community farm in Troutdale. The majority of the program focuses on organic farming.

“The team farms two days per week at several farms, ensuring good-quality food and community health benefits,” said lead instructor Weston Miller, a horticulturist with OSU Extension. “It’s fun and interactive and students develop strong friendships through the course of the year.”

Since its 2011 debut, 43 students have completed the course. Some have gone on to intern or work on farms or start small farms that sell produce to members.

In the upcoming season, 13 graduates will help develop a small-scale farm on a vacant lot in northeast Portland that will grow produce for school meals. It’s a new partnership with Portland Public Schools and the city of Portland.

Graduate Karen Flowers will be a part of that effort. New to farming, she completed the program in 2012 and said she came away with experience and confidence.

“My year in BUFA taught me so much about the realities and challenges of farming but also gave me even more passion to be a farmer,” Flowers said. “It solidified for me how rewarding it is to grow healthy food and share it with others. The BUFA program set a great foundation for my future in farming.”

More information on the program and its cost is at the Beginning Urban Farmer Apprenticeship Program website.

Photo: Weston Miller (left) teaches Willow Aevery in the Beginning Urban Farmer Apprenticeship program in 2011. (Photo by Lynn Ketchum)

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