Ground Work began in 2014 with a train-the-trainer program to prepare and support agricultural educators, farmers, and farm service providers to deliver farm mechanization and tractor education to beginning farmers, farm workers, and apprentices throughout the Northeast.
To succeed, farmers must understand the equipment needs of their enterprise, how these needs may change as the business grows, and how these needs will be met. Yet, new farmers increasingly come from non-farming backgrounds and have limited experience with machinery. In the Northeast, there are limited opportunities to access tractor education that is a) geared to adult farmer operators and their employees and b) relevant to the diversified and small-scale farms, emerging in the region. Ground Work hopes to address this need by building trainer capacity throughout the region.
From January through June 2014, Ground Work trainees participated in five on-line learning sessions and one day of hands-on training at the Champlain Valley Exposition in Essex Junction, VT.
All Ground Work trainers have extensive experience in their topic area, including mechanization training, tractor and equipment operation and maintenance, adult education, and risk management. Trainers include Cate Farm’s Richard Wiswall, author of The Organic Farmer’s Business Handbook, John Hendrickson from the Center for Integrated Agricultural Systems in Wisconsin, Seth Wilner from the University of New Hampshire Extension Service, Kristen Mullins from the University of Vermont Extension Service, and Sam Steel from Penn State University’s Department of Agriculture and Biological Engineering.
Thanks to a grant from the Northeast SARE Professional Development Program, there was no tuition cost to participate. However, participants covered transportation expenses to attend the hands-on, in-person training day.