BLACKSBURG—More and more people of all ages are interested in making a living off the land. But modern farmers, whatever they raise, need specialized training and experience in order to succeed. The good news is there are more opportunities to get that training this winter, courtesy of the Virginia Beginning Farmer & Rancher Coalition Project. “There have been quite a few opportunities available over time” to learn about agriculture or connect with older farmers looking to retire, said Dr. Kim Niewolny, project director and assistant professor of agricultural and extension education at Virginia Tech. “With our coalition project we’re helping to communicate (news about) them better. But there are also new opportunities now. For instance, we have seven whole-farm planning teams across the state, and they all received sub-grants to design and put on their own program. They’re using the coalition’s whole-farm planning curriculum to educate folks right in their own communities.” For example, the Virginia Farm Bureau Federation’s Young Farmers Committee has been working with the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services to create a whole-farm planning curriculum called “Certified Farm Seeker,” Niewolny said. “It’s really designed to enhance the VDACS Farm Link program, to train would-be farmers to become credible candidates for farm ownership.” Announced just this week are two Virginia Tech grower academies, one at the Reynolds Homestead in Patrick County and another in the Roanoke area. “It’s wintertime; it’s the perfect time for training,” Niewolny said. “We are in the process of updating our calendar to accommodate all these different events that are taking place. Because of this influx, we are recalibrating our calendar to make it more user-friendly.” Niewolny said other organizations have been offering similar programs, so each is bolstering the other. “Tighter networking is one of our deliverables, and we’re also delivering our own program and we’re seeing growth and even new programs because of our coalition efforts,” she said. The beginning farmer project is also about to launch a webinar series that will be offered live as well as recorded and made available for viewing on its website at vabeginningfarmer.aee.vt.edu/resources/index.html. Contact Niewolny at 540-231-5784 or Norm Hyde, VFBF communications, at 804-290-1146.