The Horn Farm Center for Agricultural Education is ready to grow more farmers.
The center, at 4945 Horn Road in Hellam Township, is looking for farmers to participate in the Incubator Farms Project, which helps farmers develop their skills as they create and operate small-scale farms, and sell their products at area markets and to local restaurants.
Farmers can participate in the incubator project from three to five years, said Nedette Otterbein, the center's executive director.
To get into the project, farmers must have a minimum two years experience and a business plan for their farm, she said.
The application deadline is Thursday, Oct. 31.
The center, which has 187 acres of farm land, wants to get as many farmers as possible, as space is not an issue, Otterbein said.
Incubator farmers can use up to 2 acres of land.
Farmers approved for the incubator project meet with the farm center's modern homestead farm committee to determine how many acres they need and when they will begin working the land, Otterbein said.
The details: Incubator farmers pay $150 per acre per year and an annual administration fee of $75. They also can rent farming equipment, storage space and other farm-related items from the center, she said.
This is the third year for the incubator project, which currently has four participants.
Among them is Jon Darby who also serves as the center's farm manager. The Hellam Township man owns Sterling Farms and has been a project participant for three years.
Darby, 37, said he grows vegetables and garlic on 1.75 acres of land and sells his produce to local customers and at Marietta Market in Lancaster County.
Darby said he and center officials meet with incubator farmers twice a year to review farmers' progress and business plans. The project's goal is to help farmers either rent or purchase their own land after their incubator period is complete, he said.
The incubator project also provides farmers a "sense of community," a place to work together, help each other and exchange ideas, Darby said.
There are other things farmers need to succeed in the project besides land, skills and equipment, he said.
"We're looking for tenacity and the ability to fight through problems," Darby said. "You have to have a long-term vision. It's great to get started in the project, but it takes time to see the growth you want in the field. You have to stick with it."
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At a Glance
Horn Farm Center for Agricultural Education is accepting applications for its Incubator Farms Project at 4945 Horn Road in Hellam Township.
The deadline is Thursday, Oct. 31.
To apply, contact the center at 757-6441 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org. For information, visit the website at www.hornfarmcenter.org.