Today is a proud day for the team here at Bright Agrotech.
Upstart University, the online learning platform for startup and scaling farmers, has been educating students for exactly one year. We're taking the day to celebrate and look back at how much Upstart University has grown and how many new farmers have benefited from the curriculum in just one short year.
Upstart University was born out of our desire to see more farmers making an impact.
About fifteen months ago, five of us sat around a conference table in a crowded office. Desks lined the walls. Outside the long windows, the wind blew snow in confused flurries. It was after business hours on a winter night, and our small, but rapidly growing team was brainstorming new ways to help aspiring farmers learn what it took to plan, build, and operate a successful farm.
We had been creating helpful videos, blog articles, and resource guides for about two years and had accumulated a pretty good library of farming resources. We had 140 blog posts, about a dozen ebooks, several webinars, and a few dozen podcast episodes in our portfolio of free content - all created to help farmers succeed.
And succeed they did.
The Upstart Farmer movement has grown significantly over the last few years with over 100 farmers around the world using practical technology to serve their local communities fresher, more transparent food.
Despite this rapid growth, we knew our mission of creating a distributed food system couldn't be accomplished without educating, equipping, and empowering even more farmers to provide for their local markets.
So while we felt like we were moving in the right direction, we knew we could step up our game.
Enter Upstart University.
To give farmers everything they need to start farms and sell their produce locally, we decided to build a platform of in-depth courses and community opportunities. We called it Upstart University, and the idea grew into a full-fledged online learning platform within a few months.
Happy Birthday, Upstart University!
Today we celebrate one year of operation with Upstart University.
On March 16, 2015, Upstart University enrolled it's first students. It has proved to be more powerful and more empowering than we imagined it would be.
Since then, Upstart University has provided 23 courses to equip over 1000 farmers to build a business, manage a great farm, and sell their produce. Because of this coursework and complementary mentoring from our team of experts, dozens of farmers have planned and built farms to serve their local communities.But the hard work at Upstart University is measured in more than numbers...
Upstart University removes obstacles and equips farmers
Ultimately, Upstart University is meant to help small farmers start and operate their farms.
Upstart students learn how to build a business, secure funding, plan their system, and manage their farm. They're given videos and written content for every lesson, one-on-one consulting whenever they want it, as well as access to a library of resources.
Each element of the university is meant to equip farmers with the knowledge and confidence to run a great farm.
A word from the students
One of the most exciting things about Upstart University is hearing from those who've used their acquired wisdom to take action!
According to one Upstart student:
"[Upstart University] has been the catalyst for getting my ass in gear and taking steps to make this happen," said one student, "allowing me to remember my calling, which is so easily forgotten these days, that is to make the world around me a better place (of which I think an abundance of good food is the foundation)."
Inspiration to take action seems to be a theme across Upstart University... Another student said:
"I am very grateful that I stumbled across USU. Even though I just started, I can see the amount of quality information here is incredible. Hydroponics was always something I was interested in and curious about, but never took it seriously until now."
This empowerment is so key to everything that our team represents, and it's what keeps us going. We couldn't be more grateful for the opportunity that we have to help farmers.
"It's great to see new farms really starting to take root and develop," says Upstart University Coordinator Halle Brake. "One our Jumpstart Farmers this past week started putting the final touches on her farm's website. Another farm, a husband & wife combo, just had their final meetings with their local land regulatory agencies to be able to break ground. And someone else just let me know that they got some new Upstart University gear from the online shop and was preparing to spend the weekend conducting market research and talking with potential customers. Way cool!"
Growing everyday in it's ability to equip and empower new farmers.
The best part is about Upstart University is that it's always accelerating and always evolving.
The platform, curriculum, and course materials are getting better everyday. It's becoming more engaging, more personal, and more tangible. Students are able to connect with fellow students in new ways in order to share ideas, successes, and of course, failure - the power of a network of farmers chasing their own business and growing objectives.
Every week, new students start the journey of creating a business plan. Every week, new students construct their first greenhouse or retrofit their garage into a vertical farm. Every week, a farmer closes a deal with a new restaurant, grocery store, or start their own CSA.
If there's one thing we know about Upstart University after one year, it's that we can't wait to see what the next year brings.
Ready to enroll?
If you've been wanting to get business planning and farm education, today is your day!