About the Program
The Novice Farmer Program is a pilot program combining nine on-line courses (18 credits) and a four-month (6 credits) on-farm experience with an emphasis in year-round organic farming. The program focuses on diversified nutrient dense crop production for local markets. Participants gain a foundation of knowledge through the on-line courses and then develop competencies in farm skills and business planning through experiential learning opportunities that revolve around the daily operation of the Chatham North Farm located in Michigan’s upper peninsula. The program is designed to give participants a strong foundation in production skills and prepare them for additional experiences or education.
The pilot program is offered through Michigan State University’s Institute for Agricultural Technology and results in a Novice Farmer Certificate. This Certificate of Completion is non-transcriptable, but students have the opportunity to complete a second year of coursework to earn an Institute of Agriculture Technology Certificate in Fruit and Vegetable Production. Participants may also find a natural transition to the North Farm’s Apprentice Farmer Program.
Participants completing the certificate program will begin with taking on-line courses focused on farming during the Fall and Spring Semesters (9 credits per semester).
The cumulating phase takes place the following summer and is the on-farm experience at the Upper Peninsula Research and Extension Center’s North Farm (6 credits). Students participate in all aspects of managing a 160-acre certified organic farm, which includes 10 acres of diversified vegetable production as well as passive solar greenhouses used for year-round production in cold climates and cold storage utilizing the farm’s root cellar. Students help manage the farm’s hoophouse, operate equipment, develop business and production plans for their future farm businesses, create enterprise budgets, and help with the marketing of everything grown on the farm.
Farm products are marketed through a Community Supported Agriculture program and local wholesale and restaurant markets.
Click here for the list of online classes and course schedule.
Who Should Apply?
This program is open to all individuals interested in sustainable, organic, and/or northern climate agriculture. This is a training program; meaning individuals with limited or no experience can participate, though it is wise to have some exposure to farming and food production prior to enrolling. Individuals who want to expand their knowledge of food systems, vegetable production, and farm management are also encouraged to apply.
What the Novice Farmer Can Expect to Gain
Program Timeline and Cost
The program uses a rolling admission process until fall classes begin or until all spots in the program are full. Applicants are encouraged to apply early to secure their spot. Admission decisions are typically made within four weeks of all admission materials being received.
Online Courses schedule starting fall 2017
Fall Semester: August 30th – December 15th
Spring Semester: January 8th – May 4th
On-Farm Experience starting summer 2018
Summer Semester: Beginning of May to the end of August (exact dates are to be determined)
Application Fee - $60
Fall Semester - 9 credits x 468.75 per/credit + 26 student fees = $4242.75 Spring Semester - 9 credits x 468.75 per/credit + 26 student fees = $4242.75 Summer Semester - 6 credits x 468.75 per/credit + 26 student fees = $2836.5
Total = 24 credits = $11382 + housing
Application Fee - $60
Fall Semester - 9 credits x 468.75 per/credit + 26 student fees = $11391 Spring Semester - 9 credits x 468.75 per/credit + 26 student fees = $11391 Summer Semester - 6 credits x 468.75 per/credit + 26 student fees = $7602
Total = 24 credits = $30444 + housing
A student who is enrolled full time (taking 12 credits each semester) is eligible for financial aid. Depending on your interests, we can recommend other online courses to bring the fall and spring semester credits up to full time.
Housing for the On-Farm Experience
Participants are not required to live on-site for the on-farm experience, and many options are available in Chatham, Munising, and Marquette. For farmers choosing to live on-site, cooperative housing is available for a fee.
About Chatham, MI
Chatham is a village of approximately 220 residents in the central Upper Peninsula of Michigan. Only eight miles from the shore of Lake Superior, it is an astonishingly beautiful area with lots of recreation opportunities. It is located between the tourist hub of Munising (home of Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore) and the UP's largest city, Marquette. Only 35 miles away, Marquette is the primary outlet for farm products with its 20,000 residents, a state university, vibrant food cooperative, and active farmers market.
How to Apply
The application process and payment of the program tuition is completed through the Institute of Agricultural Technology (IAT) at Michigan State University. Admission is based on several factors including the availability of space in the program. Students are encouraged to apply as early as possible. The IAT uses rolling admissions with each program coordinator making the admission decision.
The IAT online application is open and available to students who are ready to apply.
The Novice Farmer Program is a special pilot being run under the Fruit and Vegetable Crop Management major. Please use the following instructions when completing the Institute of Agricultural Technology application:
- Major Code: 5399, Fruit and Vegetable Crop Management
- In your application Statement, please include this sentence: "I am applying to the Novice Farmer Program at MSU North Farm in Chatham, MI."
Please contact Abbey Palmer with questions about the program.
Apply for the Novice Farmer Program today!