Upstart University – an online training program for modern farmers – launched March 16, 2015. In under two years, it built 30+ courses on building farm businesses, designing effective grow systems, and managing crops. Now, as we sprint into the New Year, Upstart U has hit a major milestone: 1,000+ members (and counting).
Over the years, the platform has found that a “focus on the farmer” approach is the best way to empower those members. That means building courses that answer real questions, giving pragmatic advice and recommendations, and crafting a community around the students. The first step in implementing that approach? Understanding the people that the platform is serving. Upstart U’s 1000 students of farming offer a clear snapshot of the people who will build our future of farming.
A recent survey of Upstart University students showed these common themes when starting a farm:
- To escape the dissatisfaction with current job for something significant
- To address local food issues like food deserts & availability
- To promote health by supporting healthy lifestyles with fresh food
- To support a family and leave a meaningful legacy
- To impact social, economic, and ethical issues
- To achieve job independence and autonomy
- To take advantage of the economic opportunities of the developing industry, and benefit from its profitability
“Understanding where new farmers are coming from is important,” says Upstart U presenter Amy Storey. “It allows people like us at Upstart University to create the best resources for them, yes, but it also helps consumers to get connected with them; it gives them a face in a society that really wants to know their farmers.”
The motivations of new farmers like those enrolled at Upstart University become very clear in survey responses like these.
This snapshot of the different motivations and values that compel people to start farms could be linked to the overall growth that has occurred in the urban farming and indoor farming industries.
Upstart University Directory Halle Brake believes that not only are the people and the industry growth linked, but interactive. “The urban and indoor farming movements have fueled industry growth, and industry growth opens up new doors for farmers in return. It’s a positive feedback loop.”
The acceleration caused by this loop has created the perfect environment for new farmers to start farm businesses. We’ve seen hundreds of farmers in 2016 start local farms based on the motivations above. As they find traction in their local markets and achieve their farm goals, their successes add weight to the movement. And as we see these farmers doing incredible things in their communities with resources like Upstart University, it becomes clearer and clearer: Now is the time to start a farm.
Readers interested in sharing their insight into the industry or why they’re passionate about farming, can join the Upstart University conversation using #UpstartYOU or by visiting university.upstartfarmers.com/upstartyou.
For more information:
Halle Brake, Upstart U Director: firstname.lastname@example.org