Course Explores Options for Starting An Ag Business

If you have ever thought about raising goats, growing vegetables or making cheese for a living, Growing Places, one of several farm business courses available through UVM Extension, can help turn your  dream into reality.

The course, which will be offered onsite in Springfield and Middlebury in October, and again as an online course in January 2012, helps individuals interested in starting a farm,  specialty food business or other agriculture-related enterprise explore the realities of operating a business to help them decide if agriculture is the right field for them.

“Growing Places is designed to help entrepreneurs get off to the
right start,” says instructor Mary Peabody, director of UVM Extension’s New Farmer Project and the Women’s Agricultural Network (WAgN), where she developed the course in 1995. Beginning in 2010, the New Farmer Project and WAgN began jointly sponsoring the course. Growing Places is open to both women and men, and is designed to help people interested in launching or expanding a wide variety of agriculturally based businesses.

“No prior experience is necessary, and people from all backgrounds and who are interested in any type of agricultural enterprise are welcome,” Peabody says.

Participants will develop a comprehensive goal for themselves and their potential business, identify and evaluate current resources and examine marketing strategies. They also will learn about state and federal agricultural programs and agencies and organizations that provide support and assistance to farmers.

“The course covered a lot of topics at a reasonable depth, giving
us concrete information as well as food for thought,? said a recent
Growing Places graduate. Now I feel much more confident about what I need to do next.”

The Springfield class will be held at The Howard Dean Center on three consecutive Wednesdays, beginning Oct. 12. The Middlebury class will meet at the new UVM Extension office on Saturday, Oct. 15, 22 and 29. All sessions at both locations
will run from 9:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Course information and an online registration form can be found at

Click on “Classes.” Or send your name and address to or call (802) 223-2389, ext. 204, or (866) 860-1382 (toll-free in Vermont) to have a registration form mailed to you. The fee is $100 if received or postmarked by Sept. 30, $135 until Oct. 5. Registrations received after that date will be charged a $25 late fee. Registrations for the four-week online course, which runs from Jan. 9 to Feb. 5, are due by Dec. 15 for the early discount. A $25 late fee will be added to all registrations submitted after Dec. 30.

To request a disability-related accommodation to participate, please contact Beth Holtzman at (802) 223-2389, ext. 204, or (866) 860-1382 (toll-free in Vermont) by Sept. 30 for the fall classes and by Dec.15 for the winter online class. Financial assistance is available.

For more information about this course or other educational opportunities for beginning farmers, including two upcoming courses, Building a Sustainable Business and Whole Farm Planning for Women Farmers, visit

Profile photo of Beth Holtzman

About Beth Holtzman

Beth Holtzman is outreach and education coordinator for the UVM New Farmer Project the Women's Agricultural Network.
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