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Bringing a New Genera&on

of Land Stewards to the
Northern Great Plains

Appren&ceships to Encourage and
New Organic Grain Farmers
Stewards of the Land
Who is your farmer?
Today’s Reality

•  Beginning Farmers at 40
•  Barriers to entry are SIGNIFICANT and DAUNTING
•  There are very few of us.
Where does Vilicus Farms Fit in the Food System?
•  5,600 acre organic dry land farm
•  North of Havre, Montana (8 miles to Canada)
•  5-7 year crop rotaAons
•  Seeded 19 crops in 2016, 12 for harvest
•  25% of land base in non-crop conservaAon

Seeking a more sane system = lower input costs +
higher crop prices + less reliance on technology = greater
rewards to management
Our “farming philosophy”:
•  Organic is a place to start;
•  Do NOT grow food using poisons, ConservaAon cannot
include killing;
•  Nature is the best teacher;
•  Farming is the highest and best calling;
•  Farmers must be professional land stewards & advocates
•  Farming can (and must) be pracAced in a manner that
improves the soil and associated natural resources;
•  Tillage is the “ART” of farming; and
•  The best “ferAlizer” is the farmer’s bootprints (adapted from
Wendell Barry)
Only 0.5% (147) of the 28,100 farms &
ranches in MT are cerQfied organic

•  Organic = $43 Billion
•  The US imports over half
of our organic grain
Growing New Organic Grain Farmers

Stewards of the Land
New Stewards on the Northern Plains
The Vision
•  more successful organic grain farmers
•  a farmer network sharing equipment, ideas
and fun
•  revitalized rural economies
•  revoluQonary land stewardship
•  risk sharing relaQonships with buyers
•  at scale climate resilient working farms

Vilicus Farms ApprenQces
(2013 – 2016)

Growing ApprenAceship Partners &
IncubaAng an Incubator

•  Vilicus Training InsAtute

•  USDA Grants

•  Food Company Sponsors

•  State of Montana
Food Companies Sponsors
Applications Being Accepted for 2017 Season
Organic Grain Farming Apprenticeships
Havre, Montana

•  New Agrarian Immersion Experience

•  Registered Apprenticeship in Organic Farming

For more information: / / 406-394-2469
We’ve learned a lot… but sQll have

•  What does the next generaQon need to succeed?
–  Risk tolerance?
–  Debt as a tool?
–  Work/Life Balance?
–  Diversity and community?
ApprenQceships…. So what?

•  What’s the career path to building equity?

•  Living wage?

•  Are we who are led in agriculture just
Ader months of mentoring... (“dog”
•  Are there really other mentors out there?

•  It’s not just about the apprenQce.

•  Perhaps a mentor support network?
Are independent, “family farms” the model
that will serve this next generaAon?

•  Or, are there other models that are
more palatable (to prospecAve

•  What is the best way to “incubate”
more people onto the land?
Sense of Urgency…
Can we scale up and transfer
knowledge fast enough to make a
difference for life on a planet with a
changing climate?
When we see land as a community to which we belong, we may
begin to use it with love and respect…That land is a community
is the basic concept of ecology, but that land is to be loved and
respected is an extension of ethics. That land yields a cultural
harvest is a fact long known, but la>erly o?en forgo>en.”
Aldo Leopold, 1948

Stewards of the Land