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South Centers

College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences


Workforce Development: Apprenticeship

Man picking strawberries

Workforce Development: Apprenticeship

Expanding access to nutritious homegrown food is important to the health of consumers, helps in job creation and also improving our rural economy.  While $29 billion was estimated to be spent on food by Ohio consumers in 2011, about $26 billion (89%) of the food was sourced outside of the state (Meter, 2011).  If Ohio residents purchased only 15% of the foods they eat at home directly from Ohio farmers, with no intermediary, this would result in $2.5 billion of new farm income for the state (Meter, 2011).

In Ohio, Kentucky, and West Virginia:

  • 70% of existing growers are over 50 years old
  • 80-85% of farms are operated by part-time growers with less than 15 acres
  • 80-85% of farms gross less than $50,000 annually
  • Main barrier to moving to a full-time specialty crops farming business: Skilled labor

(Snyder & Bergefurd, 2012)

Furthermore, the need for training strategies, educational programs, training development, and trainee achievement tracking were identified as gaps in the support of specialty crop growers and cooperative businesses in a 2011 USDA Specialty Crops Feasibility Study (Snyder et. al., 2011).

Response to Need

In response to the escalating demand for locally grown specialty crops, The Ohio State University South Centers partnered to address the need for specialty crops growers. Partners included:

  • The Ohio State University South Centers
  • Non-Profit Local Foods Network (NPLFN)
  • Local Producers
  • Community Growing Projects

An education and new growers support committee was formed with representatives from:

  • Extension
  • Ohio Cooperative Development Center
  • Food Marketing and Distribution Businesses
  • United Food and Commercial Workers Union

GOAL: To develop a training program to help meet the need for skilled growers and workers to produce local foods

Product of Collaboration

  • Specialty Crop Growers Apprenticeship Program was developed to educate and support new specialty crop growers as they begin farming to produce local foods
  • Program Approved by the Ohio Apprenticeship Program
  • U.S. Department of Labor issues apprenticeship certificates
  • Pilot apprenticeship program began in April 2012 with classes in two areas of Ohio
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Pilot Program: Year 1 Results

  • 8 specialty crop grower apprentices completed 144 hours of classroom instruction and are completing required OJT hours.
  • Participants were on target to receive certificates of completion as Journeypersons from the Ohio Apprenticeship Council and the Bureau of Apprenticeship and Training, U.S. Department of Labor at the conclusion of the course in 2013.

Project Contact

Brad Bergefurd, Extension Educator, Horticulture Specialist
OSU South Centers
Email Brad