TRF partners with Willistown Conservation Trust to expand its Farmer Training Program
New trainees Larken Wright Kennedy (left) and Jessica Kemper (right) at Rushton Farms.
May 27, 2014, Philadelphia, PA – It’s growing season at Rushton Farm and the first year of its newly expanded Master Farmer Training Program. The program is hosting two inaugural trainee farmers over eight months as they learn the mechanics and business of sustainable farming. The expansion of the program was supported by an investment from The Reinvestment Fund (TRF) as part of its Innovation Grant funds that supports nonprofits or businesses seeking increased capacity for their work in food systems.
“Agroecology applies ecological science to the design of agricultural systems that can help put an end to food crises and address climate-change and poverty challenges,” said Fred de Long, Rushton Farm’s Director of Community Farm Program. “By training new farmers on conserved land using these principles we can create a stronger and healthier Philadelphia foodshed.”
Willistown Conservation Trust (WCT) is a land trust that has been working to preserve land in Chester and Delaware Counties for 18 years. WCT’s centerpiece is Rushton Farm, a beautiful six acre field in Willistown Township that has never been exposed to pesticides or herbicides. Lined with old hedgerows, the farm is uniquely sited within the 86-acre Rushton Woods Preserve.
In 2013, with a grant from TRF, WCT collaborated with Temple University’s Fox School of Business to develop an expanded training program for new farmers. The new program is double the length of Rushton’s previous internship program. Trainees live at Rushton and are involved with all aspects of the farm from the planting of seeds to the harvest. In addition, the expanded program includes a robust curriculum that focuses on the business management aspects of farming.
“TRF is delighted to support the Willistown Conservation Trust as it works to develop a new generation of farmers,” shared Don Hinkle-Brown, CEO of TRF. “From farms to value chain businesses to supermarkets, TRF is committed to building a vibrant food economy that ensures equitable and adequate access to healthy foods for all Americans.”
Rushton Farm’s internship program has been training farmers in small-scale sustainable farming since 2008. Because of the farm’s unique setting within the preserve and its adjacency to one of the largest contiguous woodland tracts in Chester County, it provides a powerful demonstration of the ways in which sustainable agriculture and important natural areas can be mutually beneficial. The training program has been a model for land trusts across the country that are embracing the idea that growing food can be a sustainable practice that respects the surrounding ecosystem.
About The Reinvestment Fund
The Reinvestment Fund (TRF), a national leader in the financing of neighborhood revitalization, has invested $1.3 billion in Mid-Atlantic communities since 1985. A CDFI, TRF finances housing, community facilities, supermarkets, commercial real estate and energy efficiency projects. With 131 healthy food access projects financed for a total of over $182 million, TRF has the largest CDFI track record and portfolio of healthy food financing in America. TRF also provides public policy expertise by helping clients create actionable solutions and by sharing data and analysis via www.PolicyMap.com. To learn more, visit www.trfund.com.
Kavita Vijayan, Kavita.Vijayan@trfund.com, 215-574-5893