Archive for Sunday, July 13, 2008

Apprenticeships raise new crop of farmers

July 13, 2008


How to participate

The Growing Growers program will have a workshop, "Taste and Nutrition," at 4 p.m. Monday at the Douglas County Extension Office, 2110 Harper St. The cost is $18 at the door, but participants are asked to register by calling Laura Christensen at (816) 805-0362 or by e-mailing Here's the lineup for the workshop:

¢ Nutrition. From 4 p.m. to 4:45 p.m., Lisa Markley, nutritionist, will discuss the nutrients and chemicals in food.

¢ Flavors of local food. From 4:45 p.m. to 5:30 p.m., Karen Black of Local Burger will discuss how the restaurant uses local foods.

¢ Moon on the Meadow farm tour. From 5:45 p.m. to 7 p.m., Jill Elmers will answer questions and give a tour of her organic vegetable farm at 1515 E. 11th St.

More information about Growing Growers can be found at

Among the fresh fruits and vegetables at the Lawrence Farmers' Market is a population of farmers nearing retirement and a bustling crowd of local-food supporters and consumers.

As the demand for organic, locally grown food increases, area farmers are trying to keep up.

"I literally get a request at least once a year for more local produce," said east Lawrence farmer Jill Elmers. "Right now, we don't have enough farmers."

That's why the Growing Growers program was created in 2004 to teach people of any age how to become a farmer and help satisfy the needs of local communities. The program - a collaborative effort of K-State Research and Extension, the University of Missouri Research and Extension, the Kansas City Food Circle and the Kansas Rural Center - offers farming apprenticeships in the Kansas City and Lawrence area to give people hands-on experience. It also offers monthly workshops to educate growers and consumers.

For example, on Monday, a "Taste and Nutrition" workshop at the Douglas County Extension Office will be followed by a garden tour of Elmers' farm, Moon on the Meadow, 1515 E. 11th St.

The program has been a tremendous help to Elmers, who started as an apprentice a few years ago, she said. Now she has two apprentices helping her when she's not designing sound systems as a senior associate for CFA Consulting, an acoustic consulting firm.

Elmers said she has seen an interest from younger generations, especially recent college graduates and those between their undergraduate and graduate degrees. She is thrilled to see them interested in providing a local sustainable food source.

"It's fantastic," Elmers said. "It's very obvious when you go to these markets that a lot of these farmers are getting into retirement age, and there aren't a lot of people to take their place. We've got to have a younger generation to take up the slack when they go. And it's a very conscious generation.

"Most of them know that farming is not a way to become rich, so that is what they're passionate about."

Growing Growers also has provided an avenue for those simply interested in health and nutrition to learn from local businesses and experienced growers.

Lisa Markley, nutrition educator at Kansas University Medical Center, will be one of the presenters at Monday's workshop. She will discuss the benefits of eating organic produce, and, for example, how phytochemicals in produce provide health benefits to people.

"I think there is good emerging scientific evidence that shows organic produce is able to produce higher amounts of certain phytochemicals and nutrients," she said.

An emphasis in the workshop is to teach growers how to communicate with their customers about their food, such as storage to cooking tips.

Creating a relationship between the grower, consumer and the food is as important to Markley now, in her third year doing a workshop and in her 10th year studying nutrition, as ever.

"Growing food using organic methods has a strong impact on our environment," she said. "I think ultimately we are a part of our environment, and we're affected by it."


Ken Lassman 9 years, 8 months ago

I think this would be an excellent "industrial park" project for North Lawrence instead of the commercial warehouses built on the best floodplain soils in the world. Burlington, VT has an incubator truck farm project that teaches folks how to raise produce for local consumption, which could be an excellent model. Heck, I'm a Jayhawk and I'd love KState to run such a program in our backyard. How about it, wildcats out there?

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