The Farmer Education Program Resource Guides, created by the Agriculture and Land-Based Training Association (ALBA), are the result of many years' work to provide and improve its educational programs. They are an evolving resource used to immerse aspiring farmers in the information and questions necessary to consider and plan for the start-up of a successful small farm business in the Central Coast region and many other parts of California. Presented here in both English and Spanish, the guides, in their various iterations over the years, have long supported the nearly 200-hour Farmer Education Program at ALBA. The topics around which they are organized include:
- Business Planning
- Crop Planning
- Market Planning
- Pest Management
- Soil Fertility and Irrigation
Today ALBA builds on more than 40 years of innovative programs at its farm-based Rural Development Center near Salinas, California. Despite a diiversity of programs over the years, one core strategy has prevailed: leveraging the farming skills and entrepreneurial drive of farm workers with the education and assistance necessary to start small farm businesses. Most people served come from low-income families, and most are or have been field workers among diverse specialty crops such as strawberries, lettuce, broccoli and other crops for which Monterey County is famous. In order to best serve this unique audience of aspiring farm entrepreneurs, priority topics include business and marketing education, record-keeping, laws and regulations and organic farming principles and practices.
Each guide supports approximately five weeks of Farmer Education Program classes at ALBA, presented and discussed at a pace of 8 hours per week, on evenings and weekends, and augmented by field lessons and visits to other farms and ag-related businesses. Each guide includes key facts and questions that, when answered in full, provide the details necessary to create a farm business plan. ALBA has structured the program in various ways over the years, and releases these guides without a suggested progression from one topic to another. They are meant to stand alone or work together as per the interests and needs of programs for which they can be useful. Their pedagogy assumes there is a hands-on aspect to the educational process, especially access to the field to observe and experience the growing, harvesting and packing of diverse vegetable crops.