Beginning Farmer Training Program

Interested in starting a farm business?

Would you like to learn how to grow and sell vegetables, flowers, and herbs for profit?

CCE Niagara’s Beginning Farmer Training Program is a hands-on certificate program for aspiring and beginning farmers. This season-long program (starting May 24th, 2022) will teach you the business of profitable market gardening and give you experience in taking a crop from seed to sale. Students will get a unique and comprehensive education by growing produce in our 1-acre Field Lab and from experienced farmers and industry experts in the classroom.

Learn how to avoid common start-up mistakes! Make your farm more efficient!

Graduates will gain:

  • A Certificate in Market Gardening** from Cornell Cooperative Extension
  • Experience in crop production, from seed to sale
  • A deeper understanding of small-scale farm management
  • Entrepreneurial skills to start a farm business or find employment at local farms
  • A network of incredible people to provide support and guidance

Get your hands dirty!

“I have been interested in learning about farming for a while, but was unable to find a program/class that fit in my 9-5 full-time schedule. This was the perfect opportunity to learn and get hands-on experience.” (Participant of 2019 Beginning Farmer Training Program)

Our curriculum starts in the field and continues in the classroom – from learning how to harvest lettuce efficiently to listening to a presentation on soil fertility management – every part of the program is designed to give you the confidence and know-how to take your business idea to the next level.

Over the course of six months, participants will develop production and management skills including, but not limited to:

Field Production

  • Seed starting and greenhouse management
  • Bed preparation
  • Direct seeding and transplanting
  • Soil health and maintenance
  • Insect, disease, and weed management
  • Irrigation systems
  • Harvesting techniques
  • Processing vegetables for storage and sale
  • Tracking production/record keeping
  • Season extension

Farm Business Management

  • Starting a farm business in New York
  • Agricultural business planning
  • Crop planning and field mapping
  • Farm financials
  • Lean farming techniques
  • Systems and record keeping
  • Marketing and sales
  • Grants and loans
  • Insurance and regulations
  • Employee and time management

Beyond the Farm - Field trips to local farms will complement the curriculum and connect participants with the local food scene (SEE COVID-19 UPDATE).

Tell me more! See details below:

When: Tuesday Evenings, May 24th- October 4th, 2022 (6:00-8:00 pm)

Where: Cornell Cooperative Extension office at the Niagara County Fairgrounds

Cost: $400 (Includes the cost of books and required materials)

How: Class size is limited and may fill up quickly. To sign-up, fill out the attached application form and submit payment to:

CCE – Niagara

4487 Lake Ave

Lockport, NY 14094

Requirements for Admission:

CCE Niagara is committed to creating a welcoming and inclusive environment for all members of our community and strongly encourages aspiring farmers from all backgrounds to apply.

Applicants should be committed to learning and passionate about developing a profitable farming enterprise. Strong commitment and effort is required and solid time management skills are essential. Applicants will need to feel comfortable in an educational setting. Parts of the class may require intensive physical effort, a willingness to be outside in adverse weather conditions, and to function positively in a team and as part of a collaborative work environment.


The ongoing pandemic has resulted in changes to the way educational programs are allowed to be delivered. As a result, the course will continue as planned with some important changes.

The weekly classes will be taught in person. There will be ample opportunity to ask questions and participate in discussions of the material presented.

Masks are required on the CCE Niagara Fairgrounds.

  • If you have symptoms of COVID-19 or have been exposed to someone with COVID-19, arrangements will be made for remote learning. Internet connection will be required if you cannot attend a class in person.
  • Hands-on instructions, such as seeding and planting, will be taught in person while maintaining required social distancing.
  • Tours of local farms may be virtual depending on the COVID-19 policies of the farmer.
  • We will hold virtual office hours for individual assistance, and we will have guest lecturers, both farmers and field experts who will also be available for ongoing consultations during the course.
  • We will provide binders and demo kits to all program students before the start date.
  • The program format may change as a result of state and Cornell regulations.

We at CCE Niagara are going to do everything we can to ensure you have a safe, interactive, and effective learning experience in the Beginning Farmer Training Program and are able to develop skills, know-how and build a professional network that will serve you well after the program, as you begin or expand your farming career.

*Market gardening entails the intense production and sale of high-value crops.

**Certificate requires attendance of 14 out of 17 Beginning Farmer classes, 2 elective classes and 100 hours of fieldwork.

About the Instructor: Rich Woodbridge is the owner and operator of McCollum Orchards & Gardens, a diversified fruit and vegetable farm in the city of Lockport, NY. The farm has been in his family for over 190 years. He and his wife run a 150-member Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) program and sell produce to restaurants and at local farmers markets. Rich earned his MBA from UC San Diego and specialized in market research and rural economic development before taking over the family farm in 2011.


Rich Woodbridge
Agriculture Business Management Educator
716-433-8839 Ext. 240

Last updated May 9, 2022