- Napa Valley Marketplace Magazine
~ Starting this Summer ~ Small Scale Farming & Entrepreneurship
The Napa Valley is blessed with the perfect soil and weather to grow wine grapes, but at one time, farmers in the Napa Valley raised a wide variety of crops, and small fruit and vegetable farms were common. Napa Valley Adult Education and Napa Valley College are joining forces to prepare a new generation of Small Scale Farmers to start their own businesses, while increasing crop diversity throughout the valley.
The alignment of programs between Napa Valley Unified School District’s Adult Education Program and Napa Valley College has created clear career pathways for the students the two schools share. “Our partnership has flourished these past few years,” said Rick Jordan, Principal of Napa Valley Adult Education. “We have coordinated eight pathways with Napa Valley College, and the unique nature of the Small Scale Farming Pathway may be the most exciting of all. While this program is just one of many in place, the combined strength of the college and Napa Valley Unified School District will create confidence in the farming program’s stability and allow the two schools to do what they do best, educate students.”
Doug Marriott, Napa Valley College Senior Dean for Career Education and Workforce Development said, “I am very grateful for this partnership and look forward to this model of aligning Napa Valley College, Napa Valley Adult School, and the communities we serve to help individuals gain new skill sets to advance. Small Scale Farming allows our institutions to leverage training in agriculture, business, and entrepreneurship and connect community members with industry partners interested in products produced. I view this as a thoughtful and community responsive use of the land around our Upper Valley Campus, and an ideal way for our campus to build more bridges with our Adult School partners and community.”
The breakthrough program will begin this summer. The first cohort of students will work under the guidance of a Master Gardener. In their first year, students will take three Small Scale
Farming classes. These classes will cover a range of topics including: soil health, vegetable farming, berry farming, fruit tree production, growing apothecary plants, raising small animals, poultry and eggs, beekeeping, and cut flower production. Simultaneously, students will take business classes from Napa Valley College. These classes will cover a range of topics, including: exploring markets and profit, access to capital, writing a business plan, social media and online marketing, financial planning, and QuickBooks.
In the first year, students will also start a pilot farm at the Napa Valley College St. Helena campus, repurposing the space west of College Avenue that was once a teaching vineyard. Two other open spaces will used as a Teaching Orchard and for Small Livestock Production. Shawntel Ridgle, Director of Upper Valley Campus and Community Education, was instrumental in reimagining how the campus could better serve students in Napa County. Ridgle said she is “thrilled to offer this program to our community and play a role in diversifying the agricultural landscape of Napa Valley.” When the pilot farms mature in the spring and summer, students will sell their goods at local Farmers’ Markets and direct to retail outlets.
The real strength of the program is realized in years two and three. As a second cohort of students start from the beginning on the Upper Valley Campus, the first cohort of students will continue taking classes at Napa Valley College, working toward an AS in Business Administration or Entrepreneurship while honing their farming skills by growing their crops on a small piece of leased property. The largest roadblock for a small farm entrepreneur is the cost of buying or leasing land in the Napa Valley. The Small Scale Farming program will partner with community members to solve this problem. A number of local vineyard owners have already expressed interest in hosting a farming student and leasing the student an available eighth or quarter acre at a fraction of the market rate.
“The St. Helena community is known for its generosity,” said St. Helena Mayor, Geoff Ellsworth, “but it is important for land owners to know their generosity is being used to make our community a better place. Napa Valley Adult Education and Napa Valley College have developed a program that not only fills an important training gap, but also makes for a sound investment for local land owners. This is exactly the kind of innovative synergy that will build a best future here in St. Helena and Napa County by incorporating education with ladders to success in many disciplines and sectors. We are fortunate to have this kind of thinking taking shape here, but community support is the only way this program will be able to function successfully, and I am confident this support will happen.”
The first Small Scale Farming cohort will form this spring and classes will begin the week of June 27. Program orientations will be held in March and April. Watch the Napa Valley Adult Education webpage for updated information or email them at CTESupport@nvusd.org to be placed on a list of interested students receiving program updates.
Community members interested in hosting a student farmer can contact Principal Rick Jordan at 707.253.3594.