Farmer Education Program (PEPA) -
PEPA is a course designed to train individuals in
farm management and organic crop production practices with an emphasis on
(PEPA stands for Programa Educativo para Agricultores
or Spanish for “Farmer Education Program”)
The entire course lasts for 9 months and covers 4 modules – 1)
Organic Crop Production and Planning, 2) Marketing, and 3) Small Business
Management and 4) Applied Organic Farming, a which offers real, practical
experience farming a small plot under supervised conditions.
The classes are conducted bilingually in English and Spanish.
PEPA is primarily designed for individuals interested in
becoming full-time organic farm owners and operators. In the past, participants
have been farm workers, entrepreneurs, agricultural industry employees, college
students, and farmers, too, interested in learning more about organic
agriculture. However, all aspiring and talented individuals are encouraged to
Credit is available for the course through Hartnell Community
College and it is possible to take select modules individually.
Upon completing the entire course, participants that have the
interest and demonstrated ability will be offered a place in ALBA’s Farm
Incubator Program (see Farm Incubator program description) to develop their
small farm business.
The hours are designed to accommodate individuals that may
already have full-time work or other commitments. Generally, the class meets one
evening (6-9pm) per week for a lecture and one weekend afternoon (1-5:30pm) for
“field day” activities.
The selection process for PEPA is competitive in nature.
Applications will be evaluated, ranked and individuals may be invited for a
personal interview. Application packets are generally mailed out in the fall to
start PEPA in the winter of the following year.
Fees for the course are based on a sliding scale according to
an applicant’s annual income and number of dependents. Additional Hartnell
Community College fees and deposits may apply. Payment plans are possible.
Certain individuals may qualify for financial help that covers the fees for the
course and other limited expenses.
For more information on PEPA, please contact Nathan Harkleroad,
ALBA’s Agriculture Education Program Manager, at
831-758-1469 ext. 11.
– Graduates of PEPA may enter into a First-Year Farmer Apprenticeship leading to
enrollment in the Farm Business Incubator. Its services include the provision of
farmland, equipment and irrigation for beginning farmers operating at various
scales, ranging from one-half to eight acres. Land lease rates start with a
significant subsidy that steadily decreases from years one through six. The
Rural Development Center farm focuses on beginning farmer education. The Triple
M Ranch serves more experienced farmers working to improve their business
performance. ALBA provides hundreds of technical assistance services each year
for more than 70 farmers. The organization requires an annually updated farm
business plan for land-lease renewal, and also surveys farmers regarding
educational development and business performance, including core competencies,
total sales, wages paid and other expenses, total household income, business
equity and other measures of farm business development.
– Produce sales that match the needs of beginning farmers, especially their
scales of production, are vital for successful business development. ALBA
Organics is an earned-income social venture that provides marketing
education while supporting beginning farmers’ sales development. It purchases
fresh, certified organic fruits and vegetables from a variety of farmers at ALBA
as well as regional farmers and distributes produce to diverse and discerning
customers including wholesale, retail and food service sectors. All
farmer-vendors comply with a food safety and other procurement policies
including quality control to assure top-quality organic produce.
and Water: Connecting Families with Conservation
– This program is a multicultural environmental science curriculum for 3rd and
4th grade students, primarily focused on the Alisal Union School District in
Salinas. ALBA hosts 1000 children per year with beginning farmers’ involvement
to support hands-on, science-based learning in the context of functional
biodiversity on a working organic farm. Teachers, youth, and chaperones visit
farmers at ALBA to learn about organic agriculture, water quality, beneficial
insects, soil health, habitat, healthful foods, rural culture and career
aspirations in small business.
ALBA’s Voluntary Wetlands Restoration Project
On September 2013 after nine years of project planning, including a three
year arduous permitting process, ALBA has finally implemented a voluntary
wetlands restoration project on its Triple M Ranch outside of Watsonville in Las
ALBA’s Triple M Ranch resides in the Elkhorn Watershed, characterized by
the following stressors:
Sediment and nutrient inputs from Carneros Creek and the local
A lowered regional water table;
Fill and sediment deposits related to historic agricultural practices;
Reclamation ditches and water control structures onsite and downstream.
Two state and federal Endangered species have been observed breeding on the
Triple M Ranch: the California red-legged frog (Rana draytonii) and
Santa Cruz long-toed salamander (Ambystoma macrodactylum croceum).
Additionally, another state Endangered species, California Tiger Salamander (Ambystoma
californiense) has been observed within a mile of the Ranch and is
suspected to use breeding habitat on the Ranch.
The project is high profile in nature as many regulatory agencies involved
had no prior experience permitting a voluntary restoration project that included
the construction of habitat for Endangered species, including one state
Fully-Protected species. ALBA’s project was granted the state’s first Safe
Harbors Agreement with CA Department of Fish and Game.
The project aims to restore over 40 acres of wetlands within the 195-acre
Triple M Ranch, by constructing a series of ponds to improve wetland topography
followed by installation of native plants to diversify the planting pallet.
Project goals include:
Improve water quality on the Ranch and in the Elkhorn Slough Watershed;
Restore diverse native plant communities to increase biodiversity and
ecological integrity, and diversify habitat;
Improve and maintain habitat for Threatened and Endangered species;
Provide flood storage;
Reconnect the Carneros Creek to its historic floodplain; and
Collect research data on state and federally Listed species.
Many thanks to all of our partner organizations that have supported ALBA’s
Wetland Restoration project with technical assistance and partnerships.
Bryan Largay, Largay Hydrological Sciences, LLC
Slough National Estuarine Research Reserve
Central Coast Wilds
California State University,
Don Chapin, Inc.
Market Match – Since 2010, ALBA has organized farmers’
market incentive programs for families relying on the Supplemental Nutrition
Assistance Program through the CalFresh Program. Formerly known as food stamps,
the program now uses an electronic benefits transaction (EBT). When CalFresh-enrolled
families choose to spend $10 at selected local
farmers’ markets, they receive a bonus $5 to spend on fresh, local fruits
and vegetables. Support local families and local farmers!
Give to Market Match (formerly FUNDamentally Fresh).
past several years, ALBA’s program accomplishments include:
Providing the six-month Farmer Education Program to more than 300 socially
disadvantaged aspiring farmers, about one-quarter of whom have started
farming as a result;
farmers graduating from the farm business incubator to lease and/or purchase
farmland – including three successful transitions in 2010-2011;
Developing collaboration with El Pájaro Community Development Corporation
(CDC) to lease a 30,000-square-foot food processing facility to expand
ALBA Organics warehouse space while the CDC creates a Commercial
Kitchen Incubator as an additional business incubator.
Establishing a monitoring and evaluation database that generates real-time
program and client performance dashboards focused on 45 program and client
Networking and collaborating to produce more than 95 bilingual educational
workshops for beginning and limited-resource growers in the region;
Collaborating with faith communities, private companies and non-profit
organizations to create farmers’ markets and farm stands where beginning
farmers can sell their produce directly to community members;
Coordinating a food stamp incentive campaign at eight regional farmers’
markets whereby $10 of fruit and vegetable purchases are matched with a
bonus $5 to purchase more fresh, local foods; and
Sustaining 40-60% annual sales growth by the ALBA Organics produce
distributor as an earned-income strategy with sales exceeding $3 million in