Iowans who’ve always wanted to become farmers but weren’t sure how to make the leap can now take a course. “Dream to Farm” is a 14-week class being offered for the first time this summer at Iowa Western Community College in Council Bluffs.
Matt Mancuso, the college’s sustainability coordinator, says it’ll appeal to entrepreneurs who are interested in food security, healthy eating and local food. Mancuso says six of the sessions will focus on developing a comprehensive business plan.
“A lot of people are going to be coming in with ideas of what they want to do and they are going to be totally changed by the funding and how much you’re going to be making,” Mancuso says. “It’s going to be a learning experience for them and people will be coming in with ideas that will be totally transferred to something else by the end of the class.”
The course will cover the basics of farming techniques, soils, animal husbandry, irrigation, and pest and disease management. Mancuso says the course is not designed for someone who wants to start farming 150 acres of corn or soybeans, but rather someone who wants to take their passion for gardening to the next level.
Mancuso says, “This is going to be someone who’s a local farmer who’s going to be providing for the local farmers markets, the local restaurants, the local food outlets, grocery stores and so forth in their local areas.” It will target the small-scale niche farmer who can devote a half-acre, or perhaps two or three acres, to something like raising carrots, cabbage or chickens.
In addition to classroom work, there will be hands-on labs, field trips and relationship-building with mentors. Mancuso says they may be small-scale farmers, but the eventual fruits of the labor will be much larger. This provides a huge local economic impact, both in urban areas and in rural areas by developing these farmers,” Mancuso says.
“A lot of times these farmers use local products. The money gets transferred through the local economy over and over with these local farmers.” Thanks to a grant from the Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture at Iowa State University, the course will only cost $39.
It begins May 30th and runs through August 29th. A second class will be offered in the fall. Mancuso hopes to perfect the curriculum and will offer it to other community colleges across Iowa.