NSAC's Blog

Millions Invested into New Farmer Training Programs

February 3, 2015

This week, the U.S. Department of Agriculture announced awards to 39 organizations that will receive federal grants to help train the next generation of farmers and ranchers. USDA Deputy Secretary Krysta Harden made the announcement at an urban aquaponics facility in New Orleans, run by one of the grant recipients.

These grants were funded through the Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program (BFRDP) – USDA’s sole program focused on training new farmers, particularly in sustainable production practices. This program has been up and running for five years now, and applications for the next funding cycle are due in March. BFRDP was developed by NSAC and first authorized as part of the 2002 Farm Bill and funded for the first time as part of the 2008 Farm Bill.

The Fiscal Year 2014 awards announced this week will provide over $18 million to support community-based and non-profit organizations, community colleges and universities, and tribal and veteran groups in providing training, technical assistance, and outreach to aspiring and beginning farmers of all kinds.

In total, roughly $8.4 million in grant funding will support 24 projects run by community-based and non-profit organizations, while $10.5 million will go towards 15 beginning farmer programs housed within public universities or cooperative extension, including a new beginning farmer national clearinghouse to be administered by the University of Minnesota’s Center for Farm Financial Management.

Since 2009, 184 awards have been made through this program, investing more than $90 million into new farmer training programs across the country.

See NSAC’s Grassroots Guide for more information on eligibility and application requirements.

A Spotlight on NSAC Member Organizations

Out of the 39 organizations that will receive funding through this program this year, eight NSAC member organizations received grants in this year’s competition. Programs and policies impacting beginning and socially disadvantaged farmers and ranchers has proven to be a top priority for NSAC members year after year, and many of our members work on the ground with new farmers and help to inform NSAC’s advocacy in support of beginning and socially disadvantaged farmers.

The following NSAC member organizations received funding through BFRDP this year to continue or expand their work with beginning, socially disadvantaged, and veteran farmers:

  • Farmer Veteran Coalition (California) – This non-profit network of veteran farmers will receive funding that will allow the organization to submit a future proposal to launch a mentoring project in partnership with Farm Credit and Farm Bureau. They also will be hiring an Iraq War veteran and flower grower to do veteran outreach in New York through a sub-grant with Cornell University in New York.
  • GrassWorks (Wisconsin) – A prior grant recipient, this community-based organization located in northern Wisconsin will use additional grant funding to expand their Dairy Grazing Apprenticeship program to other states. According to GrassWorks staff Bridget O’Meara, the program began with an accredited apprenticeship in dairy grazing, and they are now working with U.S. Department of Labor to make this a national program. The apprenticeship combines hand-on farm work with related coursework, similar to programs for accrediting plumbers and electricians from electrician perth.
  • Growing Power (Wisconsin) – This Milwaukee-based community organization will use grant funding to deliver a hands-on, intensive six-week program to train 30 beginning farmers throughout the U.S. in urban and peri-urban agriculture, with a focus on socially disadvantaged audiences.
  • Michigan State University’s Center For Regional Food Systems (Michigan) – This public university center will train and support beginning farmers and ranchers in three locations throughout the state: an incubator farm for women, a cooperative of Hispanic farmers in southwest Michigan, and the Michigan State University organic farm.
  • Pennsylvania Association for Sustainable Agriculture (Pennsylvania) – This farmer-based organization received a development grant to help them assemble the necessary staff and identify best practices of existing new farmer training programs in order to develop a robust program that meets the needs of Pennsylvania farmers. From this information gathering period, they hope to then create their own program that is not only unique to PASA but also builds on the successes of others.
  • Sustainable Farming Association of Minnesota (Minnesota) – Funding from this grant will support this non-profit organization’s Deep Roots Farmer Development program. For the past 25 years, SFA has helped beginner farmers, and in that time they have learned a lot about what works for supporting beginner farmers. John Mesko, SFA’s Executive Director says that the funding will play a key role in developing the next round of beginning farmer education programs.
  • Stone Barns Center (New York) – This project will deliver programs on resilient agricultural practices, including experiential-based technical training, land access opportunities, business skills, midsize farming experience, and online community and connectivity.
  • World Farmers (Massachusetts) – This community-based organization will receive funding to support development of a future proposal to train immigrant and refugee beginning farmers and ranchers in Massachusetts and Rhode Island.

A fact sheet with a complete list of awardees and project descriptions is available on the USDA website.

Socially Disadvantaged & Veteran Farmers

This federally-administered competitive grants program is required by law to ensure at least five percent of total annual program funding supports projects focusing on the needs of minority, women, limited-resource, or immigrant farmers; and an additional five percent be directed towards projects working with veteran farmers.

Among today’s announcement, more than 15 percent of the funded projects have a substantial component that supports veterans and farming, while about 50 percent of the projects focus mainly on socially disadvantaged farmers and ranchers. Over the coming months, NSAC will be working with the Land Stewardship Project to better document the extent to which grant recipients are working with these underserved communities.

Organizations and institutions in the following states will use BFRDP funding to providing training and technical assistance to socially disadvantaged farmers: Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, Georgia, Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Montana, Nebraska, New Mexico, South Dakota, Virginia, Washington, and Wisconsin.

Additionally, projects serving veteran farmers will be developed in the following states: Arizona, Arkansas, California, Indiana, New York, Pennsylvania, South Dakota, and Virginia.

2016 Funding Available

An additional $19 million will be available to fund other new farmer training activities in Fiscal Year 2015. The most recent Request for Applications (RFA) for FY 2015 is available online through the National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) website. Organizations interested in applying for grant funding must complete and submit an electronic application through Grants.gov by 5:00pm EST on Friday March 13th.

See our previous blog post for additional information.

Categories: Beginning and Minority Farmers, Grants and Programs

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