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Small farming dreams abound in Central Louisiana

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Dozens of aspiring small farmers in Central Louisiana are taking a six-week course on how to work their land and make it into a business.

For the first time, the Alexandria-based Central Louisiana Economic Development Alliance or CLEDA is offering a course called “Exploring Your Small Farm Dream.”

Gary Perkins runs CLEDA’s business acceleration system. He says CLEDA partnered with LSU AgCenter to offer an overview on how to start a small farming operation.

“The course goes through the aspects of not only what to grow, how to grow it and where to sell it, but it also addresses the fact that it’s a business and you have to be profitable in order to stay in business and continue to live that dream,” Perkins said.

Central Louisiana has three growing seasons and that helps local growers to be more profitable. Perkins crunched the numbers. He found there’s plenty of room for market expansion in locally grown commodities.

“In Central Louisiana, we consume or purchase from the grocery stores about $33 million of fresh fruits and vegetables every year. Yet, we only produce about $8 million here in Central Louisiana. There’s a big gap and a big opportunity for people to fill that gap,” Perkins said.

Perkins estimates local growers only need 5 to 10 acres of intensive vegetable gardening to turn a healthy profit. With the growth of farmers’ markets in the state, there are more outlets to sell the harvest.

Demand for this course far exceeded CLEDA’s expectations, according to Perkins, and it will be offered again next year. He says farmers who complete this six weeks will get follow-up training and consulting as they launch their farming operations.

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