The Farmer Education and Enterprise Development (FEED) Program
The goal of ALBA’s FEED program is to educate and train new farmer-entrepreneurs to plan, launch, and establish viable organic farm businesses or advance their careers. To accomplish this, ALBA has 100 acres of organic land, an experienced team with diverse expertise, and a hands-on, 5-year farmer development program. FEED is comprised of three main components:
- The Farmer Education Course (PEPA) is a one year, bilingual, 300-hour curriculum featuring classroom instruction and field based training, readying participants to launch an organic farm business.
- The Organic Farm Incubator allows course graduates to launch their farm on ALBA’s land. Starting at ½ acre, farmers gradually scale up to 5 acres over 4 years under ALBA’s supervision before transitioning to fully independent farming.
- ALBA Organics, aggregates, markets and ships participants’ products to growing markets around California. Doing so gives farmers access to clients that would otherwise be out of reach and allows them to focus on growing and business management in their initial years.
Food, Land and Water: Connecting kids with Conservation
Since 2009, with support from the David and Lucile Packard Foundation, ALBA has hosted nearly 4,000 underserved youth of East Salinas’ to take part in a captivating educational field trip. The on-site visits welcome students to the farm to interact with farmers and introduce students to sustainable farming and ecological land management practices. The students learn about the differences between conventional and organic agriculture, and get their hands dirty planting native hedgerows and picking strawberries
Market Match – Since 2010, ALBA has organized farmers’ market incentive programs at 10 regional farmers’ markets for families relying on the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program. At regional farmers markets, these families receive a $5 token for every $10 spent, which can be used to buy more fresh produce.
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.