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FAQs

Can I apply for Central Illinois Farm Beginnings (CIFB) with a partner? Do we both pay?

Potential students are invited to apply with a domestic or business partner. While each must submit their own application, only one application fee and one tuition is due for the pair. Maximum one partner allowed.

How are CIFB applicants evaluated for acceptance into the program?

Applicants are assessed on their passion for sustainable agriculture described in both their sustainability statement and the other application questions, previous experience (none required but certainly suggested), seriousness reflected in both your answers and your personal references, and your ability to attend and to complete all coursework.

What kind of farming enterprises is CIFB appropriate for?

CIFB is appropriate for a wide range of farming enterprises, from a micro-herb farm to specialty grains or grass-fed beef being raised on thousands of acres and everything in between. We want to foster the development of successful, sustainable farm businesses of many different sizes and products. We will not only help you assess and develop your farm business proposal, but also introduce you to new ideas, help you explore your options, and make changes to your original vision as these ideas and options feed into your business plan writing process.

What does tuition cover?

Tuition covers all coursework, including mentorship, all meals (light breakfast and lunch prepared by chef Alisa DeMarco), the texts for the course (The Organic Grower's Business Handbook by Richard Wiswall and Farms with a Future by Rebecca Thistlewaite), field days and workshops held in the 2014-2015 season, and a certificate of completion. 

What will I have gained by the end of the CIFB program?

The most common outcome of the CIFB program is a farm business plan proposal which can be used to guide next steps in the establishment of your business, sell your idea to investors and financiers, and guide your decisions on marketing, pricing, and long-term strategy. However, for many CIFB students, a business plan proposal is not the most appropriate outcome for their time in the course. This can be for a variety of reasons: the student is not ready to start their farm business immediately; the student is only establishing a new enterprise as part of an exisiting business; the student wants to establish a non-profit or less conventional farm ownership structure; the student has decided, after taking the CIFB course, that they are not going to establish a farm business. All of these are excellent outcomes of the course that depend on the needs of the student, and we will help guide students to whatever plan that best meets those needs. All students will be equipped to continue developing their plans using the tools and techniques taught in the course.

In addition to a clear plan for your successful farming future, you will leave the course with the guidance of a mentor, a greatly expanded network of both fellow beginning farmers and experienced farmers and other ag professionals, and access to the extensive resources of The Land Connection and its many partners.

One important note: all students are expected to present their farm business plan proposal or related plans and future steps to the class in the last sessions of the course. 

I have a full-time job. Will I still be able to complete a mentorship?

The mentorship is driven by the student. Students will receive guidance to find the best possible mentor to guide them as they start their farm business, but after this connection is made, students are expected to contact the mentor and establish the terms of the mentorship relationship. If you are already employed full-time or are geographically distant from your mentor, you may establish a mentorship by email or phone. This is between you and your mentor. The role of The Land Connection is to check in and make sure that each party is putting into the relationship what they have agreed to in their Mentorship Agreement.

What if I cannot attend a CIFB session?

We strongly encourage students to attend all nine sessions of CIFB. However, things do happen. Missing one session is not great, but is not a dealbreaker. If you must miss more than one session, you are missing a substantial amount of coursework. If you know ahead of time that you would have to miss more than one session, please contact us to find out whether or not the course would be feasible for you. 

What happens in the event of a snow cancellation?

Unless a storm catches us by surprise, we will give students 12 hours of notice in the event of a snow cancellation. Please see our course calendar for all sessions dates and snow dates.

I don't live in Champaign County. Can I still take the course?

Yes! Students have sometimes traveled over two hours each way to take our course. Sessions start at 10am on Saturdays in order to allow people to wake at a reasonable hour and make it to class.

I live outside of driveable distance from Champaign. Are similar courses offered elsewhere?

Yes! We are members of the Farm Beginnings Collaborative, a national collaborative of organizations that teach Farm Beginnings courses based on the same curriculum (though adapted to different regions and teaching styles). Collaborative members can be found in Minnesota, Wisconsin, Northern Illinois, South Dakota, North Dakota, Iowa, Nebraska, Indiana, Missouri, New York, and Maine.

I have dietary restrictions. Are there meal options?

Yes! We can accommodate a range of dietary restrictions. We only ask that you notify us ahead of time so that we can arrange for them with our chef.

What is the refund policy for CIFB?

The Central Illinois Farm Beginnings application fee is non-refundable. Tuition is refundable under special circumstances to be  determined on an individual basis with the Farmer Training Program Manager.