The most recent USDA Census of Agriculture reported that North Carolina lost over 2,600 farms and nearly 60,000 acres of farmland between 2007 and 2012. Nationally, we have lost over 40 million acres of farmland since 1997. With the average age of farmers now 58, it is critical that we support the training and development of new farmers, as well as engage and inspire youth to develop and support the next generation of food system leadership.
Farm to Fork Picnic is the primary fundraiser for beginning farmer training programs at the Center for Environmental Farming Systems. Your support is critical to keeping these programs alive and thriving!
The Center for Environmental Farming Systems was established in 1994 and is a partnership of North Carolina State University, North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University, and the North Carolina Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services. CEFS’ mission is to develop and promote just and equitable food and farming systems that conserve natural resources, strengthen communities, improve health outcomes, and provide economic opportunities in North Carolina and beyond.
The CEFS Farm Apprenticeship Program is a hands-on work and study program that trains participants in many aspects of sustainable agriculture production, education, and research. Apprentices chose a specific focus area for their 6-9 month apprenticeship. Examples include sustainable farming systems management and research, culinary farming apprenticeship at the NC State Agroecology Farm, educational farm management at the NC State Agroecology Farm, production experience at the CEFS Small Farm Unit, experiential learning with sustainable livestock production, agroforestry, and season extension with high tunnels.
The CEFS Apprenticeship was a major stepping stone on my path to running my own farm. I had worked on a number of farms before starting at CEFS, but because they were working farms, they could not take the time to help me understand the principles behind the work we were doing. At CEFS we had frequent lectures to accompany new tasks, which made unfamiliar work less daunting and gave me a deeper understanding of things that I was already familiar with. Thanks to the knowledge and skills I developed at CEFS my farm has had one successful season and we are working on our second.
I began my apprenticeship at CEFS with very little experience, but an interest in learning how to farm in a small-scale, diversified, sustainable way. Not only did I learn the intricacies of the type of farming I intended to do, but I learned how to manage as well. Without the burden of marketing and selling the products, the focus on research and apprentice learning takes the priority. Because of this, I feel that I was especially prepared to take on a role as Field Manager for two years after my apprenticeship, followed by managing my own farm operation for the past two years.