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Published by AOLC, 2017-04-28 10:50:22

2017 Upper Midwest CRAFT Handbook

2017 Upper Midwest CRAFT Handbook


2017 Upper Midwest CRAFT Handbook  55

Core Competencies

Prospective farmers often ask, “What do I need to learn to be able to start my own farm?”
Farmer mentors often ask, “What do interns or employees expect of me as a mentor?”
To answer these common questions, the farmers in CRAFT prepared a draft outline of the core competencies and
learning stages for new farmers (see list below).

The list is intended to assist farmers and their interns/employees/mentees during each stage of the learning process.
The list of core competencies can assist CRAFT farmers to ask the question of prospective farmers, “What kind of
farmer do you want to be?” and then to guide them towards the appropriate resources. The list should help CRAFT
farmers to think through what they will provide for a first year intern/employee/mentee, from the basics of where to
sleep to which core competencies are covered during the season and which are not. The CRAFT steering committee
stresses the importance of using written applications, interviews, and trial work experiences to see if the prospective
farmers are a good fit for the farm and CRAFT.
We recognize that every learner is different and must travel a different path, yet there are some general stages of
development that everyone goes through. The CRAFT steering committee suggests that there are three basic stages
of development:
Stage 1 Foundation: Tending the whole farm organism
The beginning farmer, often in a first year internship, focuses on understanding what is the whole farm organism.
Stage 2 Advanced: Growing in depth and responsibility
The middle stage focuses on finding one’s fit in farming and going more into depth and responsibility in key areas that
will prepare the intern/employee for establishing a farm.
Stage 3 Farm Establishment
The final stage prioritizes activity and learning around the appropriate production and scale, land tenure, financial
considerations (business planning, capital, etc.) and marketing.
On the next page you will find the list of core competencies with a suggested time frame of when they become
priorities within the three learning stages. Again, this is a general guideline and must be adapted to fit the particular
learning process of each individual.

For additional resources for planning your farmer training, including a growing season learning plan and a farming
skills evaluation for vegetables and animals, please visit

Relaxing at LotFotL Community Gorgeous greens at Prairie Wind Even the goats are patriotic at
Farm after a long day Family Farm Spring Creek Farm!

56  2017 Upper Midwest CRAFT Handbook

Core Glossary
• Exposure = introduction to skill area
• aDreepath = sufficient understanding and experience to approach competency in the skill
• Priority = main focus for learning stage

Core Competencies Stage 1: Stage 2: Stage 3:
Foundation Advanced Farm Establishment
Compost making Exposure Priority Priority
Preparing topsoil Exposure Priority Priority
Preparing seedbed Exposure Priority Priority
Soil testing/identifying soil deficiencies Exposure Depth Depth
Seeding to post harvest Priority Depth
Greenhouse operation Priority Priority Priority
Seed saving Exposure Depth
Diversity: orchards, medicinals, native plants Exposure Depth Depth
Animals Priority

Role in whole farm organism Priority Depth Priority
Husbandry, care and production Exposure Priority Priority
Pasture based systems Exposure Depth Priority
Farmer Priority
Observation Priority Depth Priority
Basics of work Priority Depth Priority
Lifestyle change Priority Depth
Finding a fit (What kind of farm?) Priority Depth
Nature Forces

Weather, elements, cycles, rhythms Priority Priority

Hand tools Priority Depth
Tractor safety Exposure Depth
Maintenance Exposure Depth
Tractor and equipment operation Exposure Priority
Repair and welding Exposure Depth
Farm Management

Business planning Exposure Depth
Crop plans, field rotations, livestock plans Exposure Priority
Organic and biodynamic certification Exposure Priority
Record keeping Exposure Depth
Accounting and payroll Exposure Depth
Planning and managing daily tasks Exposure Depth
Insurance and legal issues Exposure Depth
Production & Scale

Nature and requirements of scale Exposure Depth
Processing and value adding Exposure Depth

Direct (CSA, Farmers’ Market) Exposure Priority
Wholesale, restaurants Exposure Depth
Financing a farm

Building equity Exposure Depth
Finding capital Exposure Depth
Securing Land

Authority and forms of ownership Exposure Exposure
Finding right land to farm Exposure Exposure

2017 Upper Midwest CRAFT Handbook  57

Routes to Farm

Routes to Farm is a collaboration of farmer alliances in the regional “foodshed” of greater Chicago dedicated to training
the emerging generation of local and sustainable farmers. We make resources available to farmers who are launching or
growing their farm businesses for the local and sustainable food and farm economy. Our goals are:
To Help Farmers
• Network with other farmers
• Find trainings, mentors, and markets
• Connect with suppliers and consultants
• Attract qualified employees
To Help Farmer Alliances
• Attract farmers who aren’t currently linked to networks
• Develop and share best practices in farmer training and public

• Foster partnerships with organizations from other regions

To learn more, visit

Routes to Farm is made possible by the generous support of the Searle Funds at The Chicago
Community Trust.

Routes to Farm Alliances

58  2017 Upper Midwest CRAFT Handbook

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