Farm Foundation Sows First Crop in Preparation for New Ag Executive Education Program

A new effort to better connect food and agriculture leaders with real-world field experience has kicked off in the Chicago area.

Farm Foundation, an accelerator of practical solutions for agriculture, started the 2023 planting season by sowing three acres of oats on its new farm in Libertyville, Illinois. The farm is the future site of the Innovation and Education Campus, which will host a range of Farm Foundation programs, including the newly introduced AG 101 Bootcamps.

The 14-acre farm can grow up to five acres of crops, which will be leveraged to provide immersive, enriching, and educational experiences in support of Farm Foundation’s programming on the site. Oats were selected as the first crop in preparation for a pilot AG 101 Bootcamp this summer with The Quaker Oats Company.

Todd Price, vice president of Farm Foundation’s Innovation and Education Campus, took advantage of the warm weather this past weekend to get in a crop of oats in preparation for upcoming programming at the campus in Libertyville. Here he is planting through a cover crop of rye, radish, winter pea, and buckwheat which were sown last fall to improve soil condition and prevent erosion. This no-till approach is one of the regenerative farming examples that is showcased at the farm.

Farm Foundation AG 101 Bootcamps are designed to help leaders in the food and agriculture sector gain a broad baseline understanding of the sector while building a professional network or strengthening a working team. They can be fine-tuned for seasoned leaders or for team leaders, board members, or senior executives who might be new to food and ag. Broadly, they will focus on production ag, climate/soil health, food and ag policy, innovation and investment, and the future of food and ag.

During the bootcamp, program participants will be able to walk into a fully ripe oat field, and take in the sights, sounds, and smells, an experience which may be novel for some of them. They will be able to touch the Markham soil, which is slow to drain and requires careful monitoring in the spring to judge the best moment to plant a common variety of oat seeds—Reins oats, which are known for high test weight and are resistant to lodging.

“The idea is to pull back the curtain on what takes place to get a crop in the ground,” says Todd Price, vice president of Farm Foundation’s Innovation and Education Campus. How well the crop fares in this first season, or even if there is a crop failure, will all be object lessons providing rich first-hand learning for the bootcamp participants.

After the bootcamp, the crop will be harvested for animal feed. Subsequent crops on the micro-farming plot will include corn and beans.

In this 90th anniversary year for Farm Foundation, in addition to breaking ground on the Innovation and Education Center on the campus in the third quarter of 2023, the organization is hosting a 90th Anniversary Gala in Chicago on June 15th. Coinciding with that event, Farm Foundation plans to host an open house at the Innovation and Education campus for the public to come see the farm in person.

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