Grow Louisiana, a free yearlong training program for beginning farmers, will soon be providing educational courses, mentoring and networking opportunities in Acadiana.

Chris Adams, local coordinator of Grow Louisiana, said the purpose of the program is to foster new and successful farms.

“We are looking for people with a strong potential of either continuing their current farming business or starting up a brand-new farming business,” Adams said.

The upcoming session of Grow Louisiana will be the first to take place in Lafayette. The program, which is funded by a USDA grant, started this year with farmers in the New Orleans area and is expected to continue in 2021 with Baton Rouge farmers.

Maggie Kaiser, a current Grow Louisiana farmer in New Orleans, applied for the program to improve the business aspect of her farming business. Together, she and her husband, Jacob Kaiser, own an herb and vegetable farm.

Kaiser said the biggest advantage of attending the program has been becoming a part of a community built around sustainable agriculture.

“I’ve been able to make connections with other farmers in the area and also strengthen existing relationships,” Kaiser said.

Kaiser said Grow Louisiana has helped her identify what she is interested in growing as well as what will be profitable and beneficial to her business.

Grow Louisiana includes technical farming application courses and has a focus on business planning and farm management. The program also includes farmer-to-farmer mentoring and field days with hands-on experience.

“There is a lot of demand for sustainably grown produce in Louisiana,” Adams said. “There is not a lot of supply. We are trying to create new farmers.”

Grow Louisiana classes are expected to take place on Tuesday nights beginning in January at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette.

Fifteen to 20 people will be accepted to attend the training program. Applicants must be at least 16 years old and have less than 10 years of farming experience.  

Applications are due Friday, Oct. 18.

To learn more or apply visit www.surveymonkey.com/r/GrowLA2020.