ESTER, Alaska – Farming begins from the ground up for Tom Zimmer and his crew at the Calypso Farm and Ecology Center.

The non-profit organization outside Fairbanks offers community classes in everything from soil basics and fertilizer to animal husbandry and chicken butchering.

Zimmer said their goal is to get more people into agriculture.

“The more local your food, the better it is, the fresher it is and the more fun it is to grow,” Zimmer said.

They’re also growing future farmers. For the past six years Zimmer’s family has hosted six farmers-in-training for the summer. The students come from around the country to live and work at the property.

“It’s truly what I’ve been looking for for the past few years,” said 21-year-old Carrie Bookheimer. “As soon as I got into it I was like, ‘Well now I need to figure out how to make this happen.’ That’s what this program certainly does.”

Bookheimer is originally from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. She was studying chemistry in college when she decided to leave in her junior year to pursue a new passion.

“Being able to see your hard work pay off where you start from a seed in the dirt and you get all the beautiful crops,” Bookheimer said.

The program teaches students about budgeting and business planning, information they’ll need for backyard gardening and beyond.

“We believe small scale farming is the best thing. It builds community, it makes the community more resilient, you have food sources right there,” Zimmer said. “It also gets people connected to where their food comes from.”

While this year’s training is just beginning, Bookheimer said she knows it’s everything she’ll need to make her dream a reality.

“Owning my own farm for sure. I definitely want to get a piece of land and make it happen.”