What do Spade and Clover Gardens, Compost in My Shoe, Rooting Down Farms, The Green Heart Project, the Johns Island Farmers Market, and the Sunday Brunch Farmers Market have in common? In addition to being established, beloved local entities, they're also all graduates of Lowcountry Local First's (LLF) Growing New Farmers Program. Applications
for this six-month long program are being accepted today through Feb. 16, 2018 on a rolling basis.
The program, which started in 2010, involves "experiential, hands-on training at Middleton Place USDA Certified Organic Farm, coupled with curriculum-based instruction in a classroom setting and an optional apprenticeship." New farmers can study topics ranging from seed starting to post-harvest handling to business planning.
The class size will be capped at 30 participants and all who complete the program will receive 250 training hours and a Certification in Sustainable Agriculture through the College of Charleston. The program costs $2,000 and can be paid in monthly installments. Limited, income-based financial aid is available via application as well as through Charleston County Farm Bureau Scholarships.
In an LLF press release, Brian Wheat, director of sustainable agriculture at LLF, emphasizes the importance of training a new generation of earth-tenders: "The average age of the South Carolina farmer today is 60 and, nationally, only six percent of farmers are under the age of 35. The classic inheritance model is disappearing and more people are eager to enter the profession who need to develop their breadth of experience and a network of support. These elements are critical to the success of a new and beginning farmer."