Farmer Education Program (PEPA) - PEPA is a course designed to train individuals in farm management and organic crop production practices with an emphasis on business success.

Farmer Education Program (PEPA)

(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 apply.

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 nathan@albafarmers.org or 831-758-1469 ext. 11.


Farm Business Incubators – 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.

ALBA Organics Produce Distribution – 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.

Food, Land 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

Project Background

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 Lomas, CA.

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 watershed;

  • A lowered regional water table;

  • Fill and sediment deposits related to historic agricultural practices; and

  • 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
Elkhorn Slough National Estuarine Research Reserve
Elkhorn Slough Foundation
Fall Creek Engineering, Inc.
Central Coast Wilds
Coastal Watershed Council
California State University, Monterey Bay
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).

Over the 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;

  • Helping 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 success indicators;

  • 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 2011.