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Local Farmer Encourages Employees to Apply for Stateline Farm Beginnings

Over the past two years, Cliff McConville, owner of All Grass Farms, has supported two of his employees in pursuing their farm dreams by sending them to Stateline Farm Beginnings. There they received the financial training and farm business planning he wishes he’d received when he was starting out as a farmer.

Cliff trains his employees through an informal apprenticeship program that offers on-the-job training, the goal being to give his farm employees the production knowledge, marketing know-how, and land to eventually begin their own enterprise. Even though he knows his employees are gaining valuable farming skills by working at All Grass Farms, Cliff wants to offer them more opportunities to learn the business skills necessary to run a successful farm operation. In fact, he wishes that he had gone through a program similar to Stateline Farm Beginnings when he was starting up his own farm business. “They get such a good foundation for the business side of running a farm operation and that’s something that is difficult for me to teach them,” said Cliff. The more he read about Stateline Farm Beginnins and met people who had completed it, the more he thought it was a good resource for his own farm employees. But the biggest reason he refers his employees to the program? Simple. “I want them to come out better farmers,” he said.

The first employee who Cliff sent to Stateline Farm Beginnings was Kyle Metzel, who entered the 2015-16 program with a budding hog business he was hoping to expand, as well as the aspiration to branch out into a variety of other livestock. “I had the idea that I would do everything,” Kyle says. But as the course progressed, he learned the time and logistics that go into running a multiple enterprises and began to reevaluate his farm dream. He says, “The program helped me with the perspective of what it takes to start up an enterprise and maintain them.” Although Kyle is no longer farming, he is thankful for the skills and opportunities that the course gave him, saying, “It meant so much to me and really created who I am today.”

Lucas Gully, the second employee that Cliff referred to Stateline Farm Beginnings, is also focusing on growing a livestock business, specifically a flock of sheep. A current student in the 2016-17 program, Lucas is using the flock he had when he began the class as a spearhead to his own independent business. Although he learned a number of production skills as an employee at All Grass Farms, Lucas was particularly interested because of the program's focus on financial planning and farm business training. “It seemed like it was exactly what I needed because I was really lacking in the technical and business aspects of running a farm and I was really excited that that was something you guys were hitting," said Lucas. He also admits that Stateline Farm Beginnings helped him get more serious about farming and prepared him to take on the realities of successfully running a farm business. “The things like business and paperwork, storing and organizing things - those weren’t things I wanted to do very much… The class showed me how to do those things... which lightened the load and made me feel a lot better about doing them in the future.“ As for his future, Lucas is graduating from Stateline Farm Beginnings in September and is looking forward to using the skills he learned through the program to expand his flock, find a plot of land, and begin his own farm business.

Having an employer suggest continuing education through programs such as Stateline Farm Beginnings can be the catalyst for a farm employee to pursue their dream of farming independently. Cliff’s encouragement to enroll in the program, as well as the offer to pay part of their tuition, was what spurred both Kyle and Lucas to apply. Kyle remembers, “To have him say this was a good opportunity was enough for me to… want to apply,” and Lucas says he was actually introduced to the program through Cliff. “He knew I was interested in my own farming project so he brought up the idea of taking the class and offered to pay part of the tuition,” said Lucas. “He was very much encouraging it.”

If employers are really interested in developing their workers, Cliff says, he would recommend they refer their employees to Stateline Farm Beginnings. And, he adds, continuing farm employees’ education can expand a farmer’s own business as employees begin developing different revenue streams. For example, Lucas grazes his flock of sheep on Cliff’s land, and Cliff views being able to offer his customers cuts of lamb and mutton this year as a great opportunity to diversify his product and introduce his customer-base to something new. “I think [sending Lucas to Stateline Farm Beginnings] will benefit our business long-term if we can make his product available to our customers,” said Cliff.

So, does Cliff plan on sending any more of his employees to Stateline Farm Beginnings in the future? “I have another employee I’m hoping to send this winter,” he says, “And that’ll be three years in a row that we’ve been able to send somebody.”

By Sarah Petri
Farmer Training Program Assistant

Do you have a dedicated employee who you could see having a future in farming? Apply here today!  
The application period for 2017-2018 of Stateline Farm Beginnings closes Friday, September 29th.
Want to learn more about Stateline Farm Beginnings? Click here!
To be added to the interest list for Stateline Farm Beginnings, email Sarah Petri at grow@learngrowconnect.org.
Questions about Stateline Farm Beginnings? Email statelinefarmbeginnings@learngrowconnect.org.

Kyle Metzel with his daughter.Lucas Gully with one of the sheep in his flock.Cliff McConville with his dairy herd.Cliff and Lucas having fun in the sheep pasture.