The Beginning Farmer and Rancher Individual Development Account (IDA) Program was designed to help beginning farmers and ranchers of limited-means build the capital necessary to expand their agricultural businesses through matched savings accounts.
The program has the potential to grow a new generation of farmers and ranchers by pairing business management training and savings incentives for individuals who might not otherwise have access to the capital and technical assistance necessary for a successful start in agriculture.
Shannon and Kelly Douglass are first-generation cattle and hay farmers from Glenn County, California. Active in the Farm Bureau’s Young Farmer and Rancher program, they both maintain full-time off-farm jobs while working to build their successful farming business.
They currently own a house and three acres, but must secure more land to establish the multi-species livestock operation they hope to someday own. A challenge they face is saving for a down payment on the land, which would allow them to leave behind the risky short-term leases that now confine their operation.
The couple graduated from California FarmLink’s IDA program this summer with $9,600 in savings. They used this money to purchase a used livestock trailer, an important asset that they previously borrowed from a friend. Shannon explains that the financial training and workshops offered through the program were also highly beneficial, saying, “We now have a detailed business plan, which is great.”
“The whole experience was a huge confidence boost,” says Shannon. They are thrilled with the trailer and financial training they acquired through the IDA program, and hope that such valuable assistance will continue to be offered to beginning farmers in need.
John Tecklin and Angie Tomey are heading into their 13th year of operation at Mountain Bounty Farm. Located high on the foothills of the Sierra Nevada Mountains, their 300-member CSA produces a wide range of fruits and vegetables in an otherwise underserved, difficult to farm region.
John graduated from California FarmLink’s 2-year IDA program in 2008, with $9,600 to put toward a down payment on land. He explains that access to capital is the single biggest challenge for beginning farmers, and that IDA programs are valuable tools for addressing this problem while teaching important savings habits.
“The cash-flow planning training that FarmLink required was another important nudge along the way to professionalism,” John adds, emphasizing that he now has a much more sophisticated operation and carefully manages his finances.
Ultimately, John exclaims “Full-steam ahead!” when asked what he thinks about the BFRIDA program. His own IDA experience allowed him to purchase ten acres of land, ramp up production, and leverage a 5-year automatic renewal lease on a neighboring parcel—important steps that led to greater security, and allowed John and Angie to hire more seasonal staff to manage their thriving business.