Farmer workshop for women series starts Oct. 9

AgriLife Extension partners with Women’s Business Center for trainings

WESLACO  —  A series of four workshops designed for women interested in agricultural production on small acreage will be held in October and November, according to organizers.

A series of workshops for women interested in agriculture start Oct. 9. Here, Aurelia Lopez shows a loofa to Art Hadley. Lopez sells her home-grown organic vegetables at a farmers market in McAllen. (AgriLife Extension photo by Barbara Storz)

A series of workshops for women interested in agriculture starts Oct. 9. Here, Aurelia Lopez shows a loofa to Art Hadley. Lopez sells her home-grown organic vegetables at a farmers market in McAllen. (AgriLife Extension photo by Barbara Storz)

Dr. Luis Ribera, a Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service agricultural economist in Weslaco, said his office is collaborating with the Women’s Business Center in Edinburg to provide information and guidance for the center’s clients interested in starting an agricultural-based business.

“Whether it’s raising goats, growing vegetables, selling canned foods or anything related to agriculture, these workshops will provide information ranging from the very basic overview of such businesses to very detailed information about who to contact for licenses and permits,” Ribera said.

Maria “Charo” Mann, executive director of the Women’s Business Center, said her office is well-versed in offering technical assistance to entrepreneurs who want to set up or expand traditional businesses such as restaurants or beauty salons. But when clients began showing an interest in farm-related ventures, she “turned to the experts.”

“We began seeing a trend of young adults, particularly women, who want to become involved in the organic movement,” she said. “Many have visited farmers markets throughout the Rio Grande Valley and became intrigued with starting their own small farming business.

“We turned to the Texas A&M AgriLife Research and Extension Center at Weslaco because they are the experts. They know how to apply a generic business plan to an agriculture-related business.”

In addition to fruits and vegetables, Mann said clients have shown an interest in producing and selling various types of organically grown products, including goat cheese and milk, health supplements, personal care items and cleaning products.

“In collaboration with Dr. Ribera, we’ve developed a series of workshops that will provide valuable direction and assistance for women to start their own small farming business,” she said.

The workshops will be held Oct. 9, Oct. 23, Nov. 6 and Nov. 20.

Ribera said the four workshops have been tailored to reach a more urban, female audience.

“The first workshop is an overview of agriculture from 30,000 feet, so to speak,” Ribera said. “We’ll discuss what agriculture produces in the Lower Rio Grande Valley, the type of crops, pests and diseases that are encountered, weeds, direct planting versus seedling, pest management in conventional versus organic vegetables, etc.

“At this point, some may decide agriculture is not for them. But others may be inspired to continue into the specifics to be covered in the following workshops.”

The second workshop, on Oct. 23, will cover financial aspects of local agriculture, including the U.S. farm bill, grants, loan options, insurance, crop insurance, registering and obtaining a farm number, and the various state and federal agencies that could help a beginning producer, Ribera said.

The third workshop, scheduled for Nov. 6, will focus on food safety.

“Working with fresh fruits and vegetables, we want to make sure there are no issues with foodborne illnesses,” Ribera said. “We’ll discuss food safety in the field, in processed or canned foods, and we’ll discuss the state’s new Cottage Food Law, which pertains to the sale of food items from homes.”

The fourth workshop, to be held Nov. 20, will cover business planning and marketing for small acreage.

“Here we’ll discuss developing a business plan, business organization and liability, budgeting and marketing,” Ribera said. “We’ll talk about how to sell products, presentation, how to make the pitch to potential buyers and selling directly to consumers.”

Ribera said the collaboration with the Women’s Business Center provides a new opportunity for AgriLife Extension.

“This is an excellent opportunity to reach out to people of the community we may not usually talk to,” he said. “In this case, our target audience is urban and female. But again, it’s just another segment of a growing number of people who want to utilize small acreage they may own to become involved in what’s called the local food movement, selling to customers who prefer buying local goods and services.”

The Women’s Business Center in Edinburg is funded partially by the U.S. Small Business Administration and is one of 110 centers throughout the country, Mann said.

For more information call 956-380-2800.

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