The Collaborative Regional Alliance for Farmer Training – or CRAFT— is a farmer-led coalition that helps to prepare the next generation of farmers. The program started in 1994 in upstate New York and has since spread across the U.S. and Canada.
CRAFT networks offer a unique opportunity for new and beginning farmers to share ideas, resources, and skills through a variety of formal and informal learning. Apprentices participate in regular gatherings at local farms where mentor farmers talk about a range of issues for farm operations. Collaborative on-farm learning fosters farmer-to-farmer relationships and creates a social network within the local community for people just starting out in agriculture. Programing includes: farms interns/apprentices, mentoring, field days, technical assistance, workshops, conferences, social gatherings, strategic business planning courses, farm incubators, and more.
Below are just a few of the many CRAFT projects happening across the country. Click here to learn about additional CRAFT groups, and contact CRAFT@learngrowconnect.org or 815-389-8455 with any questions.
Maryland, Virginia, Maryland
Chesapeake CRAFT was founded in 2010 and has grown significantly since then. The program offers farm tours and potlucks throughout the growing season to build the regional farming network. Events, like farm tours, take place on twelve Mondays throughout the growing season starting at 3:30pm. They are followed by a potluck dinner. The next farm tour is June 3rd at Common Good City Farm in Washington, DC. The fee for joining Chesapeake CRAFT is $150.00, which includes attendance of all farm staff to any CRAFT event during the season. For more information e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
Farmers who make up this CRAFT group stem from Sierra, Plumas, Yuba, Nevada, Placer and Eldorado Counties in the Sierra Mountains of California. The group provides on-farm field days throughout the year for farmers and ranchers, a listserv, and farm business planning classes—all to create an exchange of information between area farmers. Sierra CRAFT is funded by a grant from the Western Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education Program of the USDA.
Tennessee, North Carolina
CRAFT Southeast launched in 2012 with a goal to strengthen sustainable farming in the Southern Appalachian region. The groups started with funding provided by the Beattie Foundation, and by the Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program of the National Institute of Food and Agriculture. Established farmers and aspiring farmers alike are encouraged to join. Contact Cameron with questions at 828-338-9465 or email@example.com
KY CRAFT focuses on the bond between mentors and interns as a vital way to grow careers in organic farming. Their mission is to not only broaden future farmers’ awareness of sustainable agriculture opportunities, but also to showcase a variety of regional operations. The group holds monthly workshops and hosts a community calendar that displays field days and other events hosted at KY CRAFT farms.
Northwest Lower Michigan CRAFT
The Northwest Lower Michigan CRAFT is all about community. Farms that want to join must do two things: 1) host a CRAFT event during the growing season; and 2) allow their interns and apprentices to attend CRAFT events. Events generally consist of farm tours, a 30-60 minute demonstration of a farming skill, and a potluck meal. Hosting farms may join CRAFT for free; individuals not connected to a member farm can attend events for a recommended donation of $5-10 per tour. Contact Amanda Kik at 231-622-5252 or firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
North Fork Valley CRAFT
The North Fork Valley CRAFT runs a lecture series as well as farm tours on participating farms throughout the growing season. There is also an intern Round Table dinner that includes sharing current events, experiences and support systems. The next CRAFT program is a Large Scale Compost workshop on June 4th. Upcoming classes include fruit growing, and permaculture. Contact Lynn Ruoff at email@example.com or 970-319-9434 for more information.