Aspiring Farmer Residency

Every year, Big Muddy Urban Farm hosts Five Aspiring Farmer Residents for a unique educational experience in urban farming, community building, and business training.


You start in January by moving in with fellow Aspiring Farmer Residents into beautifully renovated historic homes. Joining together as a team, you are responsible for the farm’s operations of that year: what gets planted where and when, what markets you deliver to, etc. The Residency Manager guides the group through a business planning process, where residents collectively set the seasons production goals. The business plan is put into practice for a full growing season on several urban lots in the Gifford Park Neighborhood. This hands-on, decision making experience gives you realistic insight on the challenges and successes of starting a farm – thank goodness you have friends with you sharing the experience every step of the way! You’ll uncover everything from sales and marketing, to livestock care and growing techniques, to public speaking and event planning – all from an ownership lense. If you make a dedicated commitment to the Aspiring Farmer Residency for a year, it will comprehensively improve your skills.
We ask you please read and consider all the information below very thoroughly. To be eligible for consideration you must be in agreement to ALL conditions fully, and complete an application by clicking the apply now button at the end of the page.
2017 Aspiring Farmer Residents
2018 Aspiring Farmer Residents
2019 Aspiring Farmer Residents

July 5 – October 5


Since the beginning, Big Muddy holds to the values of self-improvement, empowering individuals, taking initiative, community service, investing in youth, creative problem solving, peer accountability, continuous improvement, quality record keeping, and core to all of this is collective decision making.

Business Driven

Big Muddy strives to provide you with a meaningful and practical education, exploring all aspects of starting up your own farm or food business by going through every step of the process for a whole year. To fully achieve this, you are provided with a hands-on, decision-making experience you won’t find in most places.
Residents determine production goals at the beginning. Goals are based on past farm records (for example, $10k). Then the group explores legal structures and what markets to jump into: Farmers Markets, Restaurants, Community Supported Agriculture, or a mix of various. The Residency Manager provides fuel for discussion, presenting various options and facilitating conversation. Residents, however, ultimately choose the fate of the farm through collective decision making, a powerful source of learning.


Residents come together for weekly coordinating meetings every Wednesday from 8:30 – 11:00. You need to block this time out of your schedule.

Community Focused

Residents come together for weekly coordinating meetings every Wednesday from 8:30 – 11:00. You will want to make sure and block this time out of your schedule.

Community Focused

Residents come together for weekly coordinating meetings every Wednesday from 8:30 – 11:00. You will want to make sure and block this time out of your schedule.

Service Learning

A majority of farm plots Residents grow on once held houses. Either by fire or abandonment, the houses became in disrepair and torn down, leaving several holes in the fabric of the neighborhood. The work of urban farming turns these vacant spaces of community risks into vibrant educational spaces, brimming with live, where all community members can benefit from, either as passerbys admiring the beauty or through touring and occasionally helping with harvest. Residents are in service of their community while they develop practical skills and further their education through direct action, reflection, and peer discussion. Vanderbilt Professor Janet S. Eyler describes service learning as “a form of experiential education where learning occurs through a cycle of action and reflection as students seek to achieve real objectives for the community and deeper understanding and skills for themselves. In the process, students link personal and social development with academic and cognitive development. . . experience enhances understanding; understanding leads to more effective action.”


There is extensive information on growing methods widely available in our modern age.As a resident you are in charge of your learning, from researching various growing techniques on your own time, discussing what you’ve learned with fellow residents, to actively engaging with area farmers to learn what they are doing

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Living On The Farm

You are supported with a place to live, grow, and learn in accordance with performing part-time hours of on-farm study and practice.

The Houses

Living, working, and learning together is what the residency is all about.

  • Located in the Gifford Park Neighborhood, these older homes were completely renovated in 2016, keeping to their historical charm while updating amenities and appliances.
  • You are provided with a private bedroom in one of the two Residency Houses. Your bedroom comes furnished with a bed, unless you choose to bring your own.
  • Laundry machines are available to keep you smelling fresh
  • Communal provision like toiletries, dish soap, cleaning equipment, etc. are supplied by the Farm.
  • Basic kitchen utensils and appliances are supplied. You are welcome to bring your own items, but understand that roommates may use it. (House ground rules are created collectively at the beginning of the residency)
  • The houses regularly see visitors, from friends of residents, to neighborhood organizing meetings, to group tour. Please help create a welcoming, hospitable environment for guests that stop by.

Recently Renovated

Community Gathering Space

Recently Renovated

2018 Aspiring Farmer Residency Copy

Private Bedroom

The Plots

Within walking distance of the houses are five plots you will grow your crops on
  • For the best accountability structure, each resident takes on the role of being point person for one plot. You are responsible for crop planning and water, weed, and land management. Working with partners is encouraged through a buddy system.
  • We promote good soil health by rotating crop families from plot to plot each year. For example, tomatoes were at Burt St last year and are at Cottage Grove this year. The Residency Manager helps


Direct Sown Fields


California St Plot


  • The farm maintains a variety of tools specific to farming that you will work with (tilther, broadfork, salad spinner, tablesaw, etc).
  • Taking proper care and returning tools to respective places makes the farm more effective for years to come.
  • The saying goes “You’re doing things right if the wire brush is the most used tool in the shed”
  • By 2019, we will have a 15′ x 8′ walk-in cooler for proper storage of crops.


  • There is a 1975 Chevy Pickup Truck used for farm activity.
  • There is not a farm vehicle available for private use.
  • There are bicycles at the farm available for communal us.
  • The farm is located two blocks away from an awesome community bike shop if you need to fix a bike.
  • There is parking for personal vehicles behind the houses.

Addressing Inequities

As an educational institution, providing experience to any and all in our community, we must address structural barriers of equity. We recognize that 

That the only way to do this is in our statements and our actions.

Historic institutional barriers challenge us in building an equitable community food system. This is very evident when it comes to race. We want to address this issue together. During our application process we do not look at any of the protected classes


does not uphold systemic racism.

Hear From Residents

“To have so much community support, it’s been incredibly positive the entire time”

Taylor Jespersen

“I would definitely recommend the residency to anyone who is looking to learn more about community engagement, agriculture, the food system, food justice… it’s a really cool interdisciplinary program “

Emily Hefeli

Calendar of Events for Web
Residents learn from hands-on experiential education methods. A business is developed each season by the residents and they take on the decision-making role. You learn from trial and error. Each week there is supplemental learning discussions on topics in agriculture. Certain weekly discussions are given by partnering organizations of expertise. Additionally, successful farming is dependent on record keeping. Residents are required to fill out records, which will be compiled at the end of the season and published in a personalized document that they can use as a reference for their next steps.
Across the country, urban farms are sprouting up, making successful livelihoods for individuals dedicated to their craft, while also improving the community they grow in. The Aspiring Farmer Residency is a great starting point to gain hands-on, comprehensive practice starting your own urban farm.

Growing food in the city has a plethora of benefits – everything from providing nourishment for you and your neighbors, to addressing social inequities, to improving the environmental in which we all live, to connecting communities, the list can go on. During your residency, you will be empowered with the tools and techniques to grow food and community in the city.