2012 Strong Starts participants learning about extending growing seasons from Farmer Erin Flynn at certified organic Green Gate Farms.
In 2012, Extension launched the first STRONG STARTS: Urban Farming 101 series to teach new and aspiring small acreage farmers with interest in sustainable methods.
Extension specialists joined community experts and local growers to share research, advice, and experiences with Strong Starts participants. Each week examined an important aspect of successful for-profit farming, and offered a robust set of information and resources.
Interest in Strong Starts was greater than the Extension facility could accommodate. Thirty-five participants spanned 20-69 years of age and represented 11 Central Texas counties. Participants managed an average of 26 acres, with most owning five acres or less.
Participants reported considerable impacts of the Strong Starts program—in terms of both increased knowledge and modified behavior. These results speak to the program’s success:
95% gained understanding of business planning and marketing strategies for small farming operations. Nearly 70% even reported a propensity to utilize creative, community-centered income streams, such as holding farm camp, hosting special events (such as weddings), or adding a small B&B.
Nearly all participants stated definite plans to evaluate their property’s soil, climate and water (100%), choose site-appropriate vegetable and fruit crop varieties (96%), and use sustainable/environmentally responsible production practices (96%). All participants indicated that they will recommend Extension programming to others.
What 2012 STRONG STARTS participants have to say:
Very good experience led by capable experts. Considering it was the first of its kind, well done. This should be done in the counties surrounding all large metro areas.
I just want to let you know that I had a wonderful time at your program. I feel so much better about the project we are working on as we are trying to grow food for local Texans. We are planting another 50 peach trees and 50 blackberries plants this fall. Please keep me on your mailing list.
The series exceeded all expectations. From someone completely new to all this, I found it to be simple enough to grasp and detailed enough to inspire me to follow up on it on my own.
Clearly, the programming was created by individuals that recognize the needs of this group and the resources available. Program was sophisticated in the amount of material covered and depth of knowledge.
Great networking. The farm tour was eye-opening for me. The variety and density of the plantings made me realize that I have enough land and knowledge to launch a viable enterprise. The Ag Econ lecture has already changed my behavior. I had no short or long term plan. I now have a one, three, and five year outline of a plan, have filed my SBA and gotten the Ag Sales tax exemption.