Growing Growers ICT

About the program

 

Our Vision

Growing Growers ICT exists to help equip new specialty crop farmers in south-central Kansas. We facilitate hands-on experience and one-on-one mentorship by connecting apprentices with host farms, and we provide technical growing knowledge and business management information through our workshop and farm tour series.

Home gardening is great, but Growing Growers ICT aims to increase the number of business-minded fruit and vegetable producers in our regions. There are other resources for those interested in backyard gardening – learn about those here.

On valuing diversity and hospitality:

One important value of the Growing Growers program is to create a space that is hospitable to all kinds of specialty crop growers, both existing and aspiring. Here in the greater Wichita area, we face unique challenges in building educational grower programs. We don’t have a large, metropolitan base that might enable a whole host of programming options, varying across values or moral commitment, type and size of farming operation, audiences served, etc. We want to maintain and uplift the important differences that create the diverse range of growers in our region, while also providing quality educational opportunities for all such farmers. This is a high order, and we are doing our best to navigate these sometimes confusing circumstances. Your honest feedback and your willingness to stay connected to the programs we create helps us greatly in this endeavor. As a participant in the program, you are invited into a civil discourse around these differences with others; showing respect and conversing with charity help us facilitate this hospitable environment. Without as many voices at the table as possible, we risk the possibility of becoming a homogenized echo chamber, unable to see beyond ourselves and move our organization forward. Your presence, your experience, and your uniqueness matter a great deal to us.

 

How apprenticeships work

Interested candidates should apply to be an apprentice through the online application. They should browse the list of host farms to see if any spark their interest or seem like a good match. Apprentice applications open in November, but official matching won’t start until February. Click here to learn more about the matching process. Once a host farm and an apprentice have decided to pair up for the growing season, they will be asked to complete and submit an agreement form – like a contract, but more so that everyone is on the same page regarding expectations for the season.

Apprentices’ unique responsibilities with their host farms will vary in hours and kind of work; some apprenticeships may be paid, but most are volunteer positions.

All apprentices will attend the workshop series over the course of the growing season, not missing more than two of the six workshops. Host farms are also encouraged to attend as they are available – there is no additional cost for apprentices or host farms to attend workshops.

There is a $500 participation fee for apprentices. This fee covers program and workshop costs and many resource materials that will be provided over the course of the program. The fee can be paid in installments, and there are a limited amount of program scholarships available.

Who can participate
Apprentices: Growing Growers ICT is open to apprentices from all backgrounds, skills, ages, and income levels. Anyone 18 years or older is welcome to apply, from a fresh high school graduate to someone looking for a retirement gig. Qualified apprentices

Host farms: Growing Growers host farms should primarily grow specialty crops – that is, their main focus should be on growing fruits and vegetables, not grain crops or livestock. They should have at least two years of successful experience managing their farming operation.

Host farms and apprentices will come with a range of availability. Some host farms can pay wages, others are looking for volunteer apprentices. Some apprentices may be looking for nearly full time work, others may only have four hours a week to spend apprenticing. We welcome this range of opportunities, as well as an equally wide range of personalities and growing styles. (See the section on values in “Goals” above.)

Workshops: Growing Growers workshops are open to everyone interested in learning more about specialty crop farm operations, whether starting a farm is a pipe dream or you’re a seasoned farming veteran and want a refresher.

Scope, funding, and administration

Growing Growers ICT serves all of south-central Kansas, not just Sedgwick County, although it is operated out of the K-State Research and Education office in Sedgwick County. The program is funded through a USDA Specialty Crop Block Grant, which is administered by the Kansas Department of Agriculture.

Our program is modeled after the successful Growing Growers Kansas City, but is independently funded and managed.

 

Questions?

Contact Lyndsay Feather, program manager:

(316) 660-0145 | lfeather@k-state.edu