Little River Cooperative started out as a small urban farm project in Miami. Over the past 6 years it grew out of the title "farm" and adopted the title "cooperative" when farmers Tiffany and Muriel teamed up and decided that they wanted to contribute more than just veggies to the community. Every year since they started working together they have added a new element to the cooperative. The first year they added an edible plant nursery to their repertoire. This year they are adding a farmer incubator program at their urban farm site in North Miami. What is a farmer incubator? A farmer incubator offers access to land, tools, resources and mentorship to new and aspiring farmers. There are many different models for incubator programs out there and they are becoming a very popular way for new farmers to get education and experience. What makes our farmer incubator unique is that we are an urban farm, therefore we're offering parcels of land right in the city. This makes our incubator accessible to urban dwellers who may not be interested in moving to a rural setting in order to learn and practice farming skills. Young people in Miami can participate in our incubator while keeping their job, school and/or family commitments.
The farmer incubator will provide aspiring young farmers with access to land, resources and mentorship for growing food on a larger scale than a backyard or community garden. A portion of Little River Cooperative's farm has been divided into 5 plots, each one approximately 1500 sq ft. These plots will be available for individuals wishing to try their hand at growing row crops for commercial or personal production. The incubator program will mentor participants through every step of the process, beginning with crop planning, organic soil fertility and seed starting. Guidance will continue as the season progresses with training on using low tech farm tools to minimize labor, proper harvesting techniques and even marketing.
Below are the program details. It is important to check whether you are available for the required volunteer hours and workshops. We require 90% attendance rate throughout the year. Or else you just won’t learn what you gotta learn!
The program cost ($1320) includes the following:
-1500 square feet of growing space at the farm located at 360 ne 154th street in Biscayne Gardens
-7 workshops; once per month between September and March
-unlimited well water and irrigation equipment
-access to nursery space for starting seeds
-access to farm tools and harvest station
-access to sales through Little River Cooperative's CSA and/or farmers market booth
-new friendships/community connections/business partnership opportunities!
What is expected of you:
The ideal candidate would already have some gardening experience, for example, they've had their own raised bed(s) at a community garden, or spent some time volunteering at a small farm. We feel that in order to succeed in growing food on this scale some previous experience is vital. Participants will also need to show that their schedule allows for the required amount of time needed for optimum learning and success. Everyone will be required to do 1 day (8 hours) per month of volunteer time with us at the farm or at our partner farm, French Farm, which is located in Homestead (volunteering will be from September to April). We ask that you attend the 7 monthly workshops mentioned above, each one lasting approximately 2 hours. While we understand that sometimes things do unexpectedly pop up, if you miss a significant number of the workshops or volunteer days, there are consequences to your understanding and integration within the course and the group. The amount of time you should expect to spend on your own plot will vary greatly depending on what you choose to grow and how well you manage your fertility, weeds and pests. From our experience a plot of this size will need no less than 10 hours per week for success. Keeping your plot well weeded and watered as well as pest free will be vital for your success but also the success of everyone else farming around you.
The farmer incubator relies on extensive planning even before the first seed gets planted. You should approach the program with an idea of what you'd like to grow, whether it be herbs, greens or flowers we recommend that you focus your efforts on a theme. For example, you may want to grow herbs and garnishes for your catering business or maybe you are a personal chef and can grow fresh greens for your clients. One could grow flowers for selling at market, medicinal plants for an apothecary or veggies with a focus on Asian or Caribbean varieties.
Each plot will require 4 cubic yards of fresh soil which will be purchased in bulk and delivered to the farm on a decided upon date in September. Each participant will incur the cost of 4 yards of soil which is approximately $200. Additionally, we fertilize our crops with organic composted chicken manure and we will offer to split a bulk order with anyone interested. We buy it in 50 pound bags for $25 each. Your fertility requirements will vary depending on what you grow and how often you replant, but generally speaking you should budget for about 5 bags. We require all participants in the program to grow without the use of synthetic fertilizers and pesticides.
Application and Payment:
To begin the application process please send an email to mail@littlerivercooperative with the subject line Urban Farmer Incubator Application answering the following questions:
-What is your name, phone number and address?
-How much and what kind of experience do you have with growing plants?
-Will you be able to dedicate 10 hours a week plus an extra 10 hours per month to the program?
-Tell us a little bit about your goals if you get a plot at our farm. What will you be growing? Will you be looking to sell your harvest and if so, where? Are you mostly planning to experiment or do you have some previous experience that will allow you to start the season with a farm plan?
-Tell us about your long term goals with farming. What do you plan or dream of doing after the incubator? Let us know what you hope to do with the knowledge you gain during the farmer incubator!
If you are selected for a plot you will need to pay 50% of the program cost ($660) in order to secure it. You will automatically get access to your plot as soon as we receive your first payment. The other half of the cost is due on November 1st. Access to your plot expires on May 1st of 2018.