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School for beginning market vegetable growers set for January

October 29, 2008 By Bob Mitchell

Aspiring fresh market vegetable growers can learn the fundamentals of the business from veteran growers and other experts at the 2009 Wisconsin School for Beginning Market Growers, Jan. 16-18, on campus.

John Hendrickson, the school’s coordinator, says that demand for fresh, local produce has never been higher. He notes that farmers’ markets are seeking vendors, most community-supported agriculture (CSA) farms sell as many memberships as they can handle, top chefs are building their menus around fresh, local produce, and grocery stores want to stock these products on their shelves.

But while this demand creates opportunities, it doesn’t ensure that a commercial fresh market business will earn a profit, or even survive, Hendrickson cautions.

“We want people to not just learn how to grow food, but how to make smart decisions about marketing, pricing, capitalization and labor,” he says. “Our intensive workshop is designed to provide a holistic and detailed look at what it takes to start and operate a business growing and selling fresh vegetables.”

The school emphasizes organic production methods and direct marketing, delving into fertility management, use of greenhouses, strategies to extend the season, pest management, equipment, planning and budgeting. There will be ample opportunities to network with others interested in starting a fresh produce business and to peruse a show-and-tell table featuring a variety of small tools and gadgets.

Instructors include veteran organic growers Michael Racette of Spring Hill Community Farm, Tricia Bross of Luna Circle Farm and Jenny Bonde of Shooting Star Farm. They will share their strategies for selling through farmers’ markets and CSAs and directly to restaurants. Other speakers will cover topics ranging from insects to business management.

“The greatest thing about this workshop is that it is based in reality … actual growers from working farms with true experience,” noted one past participant. “Their honesty and generosity with detailed information is invaluable.”

The School for Beginning Market Growers is sponsored by the UW–Madison Center for Integrated Agricultural Systems. The fee is $275. Enrollment is limited to 30 people, so early sign-ups are advised. For more information, contact John Hendrickson at (608) 265-3704 or

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