California Farm Academy

Beginning Farmer Training Academy Curriculum

The California Farm Academy (CFA) training program consists of 30 weeks of classes, hands-on experience, farm visits and other field trips during a seven-month period. Session 6 will start in February 2017 and meet on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 4:30 pm - 7:30 pm and two Saturdays per month through September 2017.

You will get more than 250 hours of training time between courses and farm visits, time spent learning by doing, as well as mentoring and lectures by farmers and agricultural professionals. Your time will be spent in the classroom, the greenhouse, out in the field or packing shed, and on the farms of some of the region's most successful farmers and ranchers.

Attendance and participation are critical to your success in the training program and as a beginning farmer. Graded (pass/fail) work will consist largely of class participation, including activities and worksheets, keeping a field journal, take-home reading and short homework assignments.


There are also two long-term assignments:

  1. a business plan that will be developed in and out of class during the seven months and which you will present to a panel of farmers and lenders prior to graduation;
  2. an independent study project in the middle of the session. The independent study project will allow you to focus in more depth on your specific farming and marketing goals and requires you to seek information from outside resources; examples include trying to obtain a loan from a bank or the Farm Service Agency; seeking entry to a farmer's market or food cooperative; or researching the growth requirements of a particular crop variety.

Topics that you will explore are led by CFA teachers, farmers, academic faculty and staff, agricultural, natural resource and business professionals and include:

  • basic production practices (vegetables, fruits, tree nuts, poultry, livestock)
  • crop planning
  • soil science
  • pest management
  • organic agriculture
  • tractor operation and implement use
  • irrigation and water management
  • direct and wholesale marketing
  • ecology and conservation
  • goal setting and farm enterprise analysis
  • farm business planning
  • obtaining loans, insurance and permits
  • farm financials and record-keeping
  • labor and human resource management
  • risk management
  • farm safety
  • regulatory compliance
  • decision-making and problem-solving
  • and more!

The California Farm Academy's farm business incubator program also provides farmland for lease to qualified CFA graduates. Successful attendance, participation and an approved crop plan and business plan are required to lease land in the incubator program. Plots of land (some organic) from ¼ acre to 1 acre or more are available at the Center for Land-Based Learning and/or other sites to be determined.