QUINCY -- Deborah Lee already understands the hard work and low profit margin in small farming.
Making sure others interested in the same career path also understand is the goal of this summer's Farm Dreams workshop series sponsored by the Land Connection, a nonprofit group dedicated to growing the local food economy.
"One of the ways we try to achieve that mission is by helping to train new farmers," said Mallory Krieger, the Land Connection's farmer training manager. "The 'teaser' series we run every summer, hosted on farms throughout Central Illinois, aims to provide resources to people feeling the call to land, the itch to become a farmer."
Farm Dreams kicks off July 9 at Lee's Four Winds Farm, 3729 N. 36th.
Participants tour the farm and hear from Lee and Jessica Whiston, a Farm Dreams alum who operates Terripin Farms with her husband Brad, about the steps they followed to start their operations.
"We attract people anywhere from 'I've been dreaming about this silently and this is the first action I'm taking' to 'I have some land, am selling piecemeal at the farmers market but don't know what direction to take,'" Krieger said. "Some could enroll in our yearlong farmer training course, Central Illinois Farm Beginnings."
The $30 registration cost includes a light supper and the Farm Dreams Handbook.
Advance registration is available at thelandconnection.org/FarmDreams2018 through July 8. Day-of registration and more information will be available by calling 217-840-2128.
Interest in small farming has plateaued in recent years, and sales for local products declined in some years but recently saw a rebound.
"I've noticed that those who are considering entering farming are coming at it a little more cautiously than a few years ago, which I think is a good thing," Krieger said.
The Whistons invested years developing a community supported agriculture, or CSA, venture for around 120 families in Quincy and two other communities and launching a farm stand and cooperative at Lee's farm, which she bills as "a place to grow" not only flowers, herbs and vegetables but to grow in mind, body and spiritual health.
"We want to be very realistic," Lee said. "People have no idea how much work is involved in growing five to 10 acres of vegetables. It's a huge amount of labor."
The course emphasizes sustainability for small farming operations. Other sessions will be held Aug. 6 in Palmer and Sept. 10 in Urbana.
"The pulse of the land is strong. When you feel it you're desperate to get out and get your hands dirty, but you can't have sustainability if it can't finance itself," Krieger said.
"We want to give a real good overview of what we've done, how we've gone about doing it," Lee said. "We want to show the pros and the cons to give people a very good idea of what to expect and hopefully how to become more successful if they're interested in working with local foods."