Learning how to establish a profitable urban farm takes a LOT of planning and thinking – it’s certainly not just about land access and good seedlings. So we’re very happy that Curtis Stone, author of The Urban Farmer, has launched this excellent online course.
Some of you may have seen + learned from Curtis when we brought him out to Oz in Feburary with Jean-Martin Fortier for our Urban Farming Masterclasses – and some of you may have already read his book The Urban Farmer, which is in the same spirit as this course – down to earth, practical, step-by-step urban farming how to.
(at this point we’d like to let you know that Curtis asked us to partner with him to offer this course to our community, so if you decide to enrol in this course with the MILKWOOD discount code you get a great course with a discount, and we will get a small commission to help us keep doing what we do.)
Profitable Urban Farming is kind of an expanded, interactive version of Curtis’s book (or his one-day workshop) but with stacks of more specific knowledge and resources, lots of encouragement, a paced learning style that follows along with your farm plot establishment, and a vibrant worldwide student community that becomes your farming community both during the course, and onward from there.
Firstly, if you’re not familiar with the above people or urban farming, here’s a video tour of Green City Acres, Curtis’s main farming site.
This course is for anyone seriously considering urban-fringe food growing as a livelihood, and existing growers looking to tune-up their intensive small plot growing skills.
We’ve been watching Curtis’s new Profitable Urban Farming course take shape for a while now, and the reactions from students, the general community vibe, and the actual outcomes in terms of business plans, crops and happy local food buyers.
All of which points towards a well crafted and actually effective online course – which we all know is no mean feat.
Online learning is fabulous in it’s accessibility, self-paced and anywhere, anytime aspects – but still, you’re sitting in front of a screen to do the learning. Which might seem like the opposite of hands-in-the-soil farming.
The thing is, as any successful grower will tell you, creating a viable (and actually profitable) farming enterprise requires excellent planning, design and constant communication with others, as well as listening to the land and watching the sky.
And so Curtis Stone and Luke Callahan, the makers of this course, have worked around the intrinsic challenge of screentime-vs-action learning in a bunch of ways. And they have done a darn fine job.
The course is structured in 12-week self study style, where you enter in when you’re ready, and follow the knowledge, planning and practical tasks in a step by step format. You don’t need to complete the course in 12 weeks, it’s completely self-paced. And you can move through the parts of the course at whatever rate, and in whichever order, you choose – though the recommended order is a solid and logical guide.
The general skeleton of the course allows for peer interaction in a range of different ways, while being simple enough that you can just go for it and dip in and out of the social aspect if and when you feel like it.
The course has two main sections – Business Plan and Production. A summary of each module is below – keep in mind that each subject mentioned is DENSE with sub-modules full of text + video lesson details…
The Business Planning Section:
The goal of this section is to take you through all of the “Business” aspects of building your farm. This breaks down into everything that is not directly related to producing vegetables. Essentially, it is as follows:
- Your Customers
- Your Products
- Developing a weekly sales plan
- Developing a weekly planting plan
- Business Administration
- The Finances
- Building an Incredible Team
The Production Section:
The goal of this section to take you through exactly how to produce high quality produce that is ready to sell to Restaurants and Farmer’s Markets. It’s broken down into the following modules:
- Get Your Land
- Tools & Materials
- Plot & Bed Prep
- Pests & Weeding
- Season Extension
As said, each module above has a bunch of sub-modules – e.g. the ‘Get your Land’ module breaks down into:
- Unit 1 Get the Word Out
- Unit 2 Identify The Prospects
- Unit 3 Qualify the Plot
- Unit 4 Agree on the Terms
Each of these sub-modules are essentially a lesson in themselves, with text, video, resources, other students notes to browse, and importantly ACTIONS at the end. It’s suggested that you need to undertake the actions to effectively move on to the next module. And so it goes on.
The course has an online community channel to get you fired up, and also allow for general discussion, question asking and resource sharing.
You’re joined up to the Profitable Urban Farming facebook group when you enrol. It’s a closed, administered group so only contains folks actually doing the course, and it is very much alive with useful discussion on just about everything that relates to the course content.
Because it’s a dedicated + administrated course group this facebook group is 100% course discussion and 0% all the other stuff that farming facebook groups we know of can fall into (don’t even get me started) – it’s a progressive, supportive and focussed community. And Curtis + Luke regularly are sharing their season’s progress and answering questions in there too.
But I’m not in North America…
Yes, we know. And that is ok! The course content translates well, just like Curtis’s book (and Jean-Martin Fortier’s too, for that matter) to a non-north-american growing context.
While there’s plenty of differences between Canada and Australia, one of the nebulous blessings of western civilisation is that there’s also a huge amount of similarities between our cities and towns in terms of land use, customer expectations, business planning and available equipment.
In terms of different climates, growing seasons and crops, the course is designed for everyone, everywhere, as it builds on good planning and design to get a good harvest, not cookie-cutter solutions that may not work where you are.
What the students say:
During our review process, we spoke to some Aussies who have done or are doing this course to see how it was going for them:
“I’m loving the course’s practical low tech, low $ solutions to some really big problems that small scale organic enterprise have globally. I also love that they have minimal-till operations while being financially successful…great role models of what can be achieved, especially on a small scale” – Sheia of Lifeforce Food Gardens
“I like the clear and simple instructions, the way that it is designed in 2 parts being the business plan and the production plan. The videos and lists of information. Though North American focused, the tools and equipment are easily found locally.
Ideally, this course has given our organisation a Business Plan and an Operations Plan which is something more than what other courses offer, I find.” – Nick from The Mini Farm Project
“It has been fabulous to HAVE.A.SYSTEM. It was so worth the money to plug in and go – and my garden is only 1/10th of an acre, 20×10 metres of beds, with extra space for nursery tables and prep.
The excel sheets are worth the money on their own! Thanks to Lukes patience. Obviously it takes effort to modify to your context, but I think it’s way better than many big commercial operations would have.” – Jacki from Blue Dog Farm
Enrolling with our discount code
In order to make it that bit easier for Milkwood network folks to do this course that we think is deeply worth doing if you’re an aspiring grower, we’ve negotiated with Profitable Urban Farming for a discount for you!
If you enter code MILKWOOD when enrolling, you will get 10% off the first course payment. How excellent.
Discount details: so because the discount works for the first payment, you’ll get a much bigger discount if you pay the whole thing upfront. And it’s the same for the overall course price – if you pay upfront, you get a big discount, if you pay by installments, not so much.