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The Farmer U curriculum offers a learnbydoing approach
<p> The Farmer U. curriculum offers a learn-by-doing approach.</p>

Farm to table? Why not do both?

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If you think it would be cool to be an artisanal farmer who grows mind-blowing ingredients for prominent chefs, your time has come. Now there’s a school that will teach you how to become one. It’s Farmer University at Love Apple Farms, a new Santa Cruz, CA, educational venture that’s offering a one-year-long live-in educational program that trains students in the art and science of growing food specifically for restaurants. Classes start Oct. 1, 2013, and the job placement assistance sounds awesome.

Farmer University is the brainchild of Cynthia Sandberg, owner of Love Apple Farms in Santa Cruz. She practices biodynamic organic farming and has spent the past eight years farming exclusively for chef David Kinch’s Manresa. This restaurant holds two Michelin stars and has been named one of the world’s 50 best restaurants by British magazine The Restaurant.

Sandberg says that the demand for farmers able to grow to the standards of high-end restaurants exceeds the supply. Here’s how she describes it on the school’s website:

”As restaurants world-wide move swiftly toward exclusive partnership with local farms, they seek a specific type of farmer. They look for a highly educated person who is creative, tech-savvy, and finely tuned to the idiosyncrasies endemic in top chefs. Perhaps more importantly to a person with little access to land or those unable to start a farm from scratch, many restaurants are providing land and directly employing qualified individuals trained in haute cuisine vegetable production. This emerging and exciting job market is an extremely viable way to farm without the normal risks that conventional farmers face.”

The Farmer University/Love Apple Farms complex near Santa Cruz, CA

So what exactly will students learn while at this school? Farmer U. aims to “train farmers to perfectly match the needs and requirements of gourmet restaurants. Our student farmers will also learn important aspects of CSA farming, agri-tourism principles and strategies, and most importantly: how to acquire, run and manage a successful farm-based business.”

Tuition for this 12-month program is $14,000. For that sum the student gets a “complete instructional program, full room and board, off-farm workshops and seminars, and recruitment/employment assistance upon graduation. Most of our interested students will be paired with restaurants upon graduation and go directly into farming jobs. Your success is our success, so this networking and employment search on your behalf is important to us, and we engage in a rigorous campaign for all of our students.”

We don’t know if this is a good deal or not. But we’re thinking that it might sound like one to recent liberal arts grads whose student loan debt stretches into six figures and who have yet to find a decent job. People who love food but have found they don’t necessarily like working as a line cook for $10-$12 an hour might find it appealing, too.

Taking the long view, having artisan farming credentials on your resume could be helpful for many restaurant industry workers. And the ability to grow great food is a valuable life-long skill, too. If you’d like to explore a different corner of the restaurant world than the one your currently in, Farmers U. could be worth your time to explore.

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