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Become a Course Sponsor or Instructor

We welcome inquiries from organizations and agencies interested in offering Exploring the Small Farm Dream courses. At present there are no fees or royalties to be a course sponsor. The only cost is the purchase of workbooks for each course participant. We also ask that you join our network of course delivery partners and share information about your courses. Click here to see a list of current course sponsors.

To become either a course sponsor, or a course facilitator, we do ask that you attend a course orientation, led by experienced instructors. These sessions provide an orientation to the course, tips on course promotion and management, in-depth review of the workbook, and suggestions for expanding upon and adapting the material to your own constituents. The training sessions also include a discussion of today's new farmers and strategies for using Exploring the Small Farm Dream to enhance your current or planned programs for beginning farmers. Potential instructors have an opportunity for practice as well. All participants receive a course delivery guide.

NESFI offers train the trainer sessions at its site in Belchertown, MA when there is sufficient demand.  We are also happy to discuss the opportunity to bring our train the trainer session to you, especially if you are located outside the Northeast. If you are interested in attending a train the trainer session please email NESFI at

Thanks to a professional development grant from Northeast SARE, NESFI conducted several train the trainer sessions in 2008-09.  For information on the Beginning Farmer Education & Training Project, see the description in the Special Projects section of this website.

Who delivers the courses?

Exploring the Small Farm Dream course sponsors are service providers that offer programs and resources for beginning farmers through their own organizations or in partnership with others. A look at the current list of course sponsors will give you an idea of the range of service providers offering classes. In Massachusetts, for example, the Massachusetts Department of Agriculture is the course sponsor. MDAR delivers the course at different locations in the state in partnership with buy local programs, non-profit community development corporations, and new entry farming organizations. In Nova Scotia, the provincial agricultural college offers the classes. In Virginia it is a collaboration of a local food project and an environmental organization. What all course sponsors have in common is that they, or they and their partners, provide support to participants beyond the course itself. For those who decide that farming as a business is right for them that means helping them take their next steps, perhaps through technical workshops, assistance finding land, business planning courses, or mentoring.

Course sponsors are responsible for organizing classes, promoting them, following up with participants after the course, and providing summary information to NESFI. As with any workshops or programs you run, you will assign someone to manage the course. It is certainly possible that your course manager will also be your instructor but, in our experience, it is better to keep the roles separate. Potential course managers are welcome to attend the orientation sessions.

Who teaches the courses?

Instructors may be staff members of course sponsors or contracted facilitators. The ideal instructor has experience starting and operating his or her own agricultural business, is experienced teaching adults, has knowledge of a variety of farm operations through direct experience or consulting with different ag businesses, and has strong marketing and business financial skills. Of course, few people meet this ideal, so we encourage using instructor teams, bringing in farmer guest speakers, and other creative ways to "fill the bill." However, because the course asks participants to consider whether they want to be self-employed, we believe it is critical for the lead instructor (or one of the leads in a team) to have experience starting and running a business, even a non-farm business.

What is NESFI's role?

In addition to providing train the trainer sessions, NESFI will:

  • Continually update and improve web resources for course participants, sponsors and instructors
  • Revise and update the workbook
  • Promote courses on its website
  • Collect and share data on courses 
  • Provide opportunities for networking among course sponsors and instructors