Non-Degree Small Farm Education Programs

The Illinois Small Farm Incubator Program 2025


The Small Farm Incubator program is designed to give a more experienced grower some of the organizational tools and skills as well as ongoing support to run their own small farm business. The participants will work together in the process of planning and implementing a vegetable farm. They will collaborate to do all crop and rotation planning, farm design, as well as the processes of planting, maintaining, harvesting, washing, handling and marketing vegetables. These processes will develop horticultural, managerial, organizational, business and marketing skills to run a small farm business. They will also have access to field trips, classroom lectures, activities and discussions will develop the intellectual knowledge that will provide the theoretical foundation for the practices used on the farm.

Program Structure

Spring Online CourseFebruary 1- March 30

  • We will cover the basics of vegetable production, plant families, weed control, pest and disease management, nutrient management
  • Introduction to the tools that are available and used in vegetable production
  • Apprentices will be guided through market identification and budget development
  • Apprentices will be guided through the crop planning process and develop seed orders
  • Apprentices will need to create a growing guide for each crop they are growing to know their specific production needs, harvest and post harvest needs.
  • Starting plants in the greenhouse for your season
  • Developing a list of supplies you will need for the season trellising, mulch, pest control, cover crops, marketing materials, ect. needs for your season
  • Learning the important aspects of running a small farm business, worker safety, food safety, insurance, ect.

Growing Season April 1- December 15

  • We will provide land, transplant greenhouse space, access to equipment, tools and irrigation, trellising and mulching materials.
  • Apprentices will, with the support of the program staff, run their own farm and market the vegetables at a local farmers market or can run a CSA.  Apprentices will be able to keep the proceeds of their sales to help offset living costs.
  • There will be opportunities to come to lectures on weekly topics during the summer. These topics will be presented by program staff, U of I faculty, extension professionals, regional farmers and experts . Presentations will usually be paired with readings, videos or podcasts to give more in depth and diverse perspectives as well as with an activity to practically apply knowledge or further our thinking on the topic.
  • There will opportunities to go on field trips to local food organizations and farms that will give participants opportunities to learn about different farmers’ systems and begin to develop a network with the organizations and farmers in our region.


  • Low cost access to land, Wash pack, cooler space, basic supplies, tools and limited access to equipment
  • Supportive staff to help you design and implement a small farm, training you on equipment with tools and different methods for production
  • A low pressure, supportive space to start a farm business
  • Explore different marketing strategies, growing methods, management structures and crops
  • Try out different tools and pieces of equipment to figure out which are most important for your farm business

To Apply

Please send a message of interest by November 15 to our program director, Mr. Matt Turino (, describing why you are interested in the program, what skills and experience you have and what your dream farm would look like.


At least one season of vegetable farm experience


$2,000 per year


February 1- December 15