Today, the U.S. Department of Agriculture announced awards totaling $17 million through the Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program (BFRDP). BFRDP is the only USDA program exclusively dedicated to training new farmers and ranchers, particularly in sustainable production practices.
NSAC and our members who serve beginning farmers across the country originally conceptualized BFRDP nearly 15 years ago. The federal grant program was first authorized in the 2002 Farm Bill, though not funded until passage of the 2008 Farm Bill. The program supports training, technical assistance, and education to new farmers to ensure they have the business, production, and marketing skills to build successful and viable farming operations.
Since 2009, USDA has invested $90 million through BFRDP to support 184 projects serving new and beginning farmers in every state in the country. For a complete list of grantees, check out NIFA’s website.
This year, 34 organizations received BFRDP grants for projects supporting beginning farmers in 25 states. In total, about $10.7 million in grant funding will support 22 projects spearheaded by community-based and non-profit organizations, while $6 million will go towards 12 beginning farmer programs housed within public universities or cooperative extension.
NSAC Member Projects to Support Beginning Farmers
NSAC member organizations and other community-based and non-profit organizations have been vital in creating and securing public support and funding for BFRDP over the past decade. These are the hard-working and dedicated farmer-based organizations who work directly with farmers – new and veteran – in nearly every state across the country.
We therefore want to especially congratulate the following seven NSAC member organizations who were successful in receiving grant funding through BFRDP this year to support their work with beginning, socially disadvantaged, and veteran farmers:
- Dakota Rural Action (South Dakota) –The South Dakota Beginning Farmer Training, Mentoring, Networking and Market Support Project seeks to increase the number of successful, sustainable, and profitable beginning farmers and ranchers in South Dakota. DRA is also a member of the Farm Beginnings Collaborative, a national alliance of independent regional groups of farmers and farmer training support organizations working together to promote a farmer training model that is community based, is rooted in sustainable principles and is farmer led.
“Dakota Rural Action is very pleased to have received this grant. It will go a long way in supporting this important program.” -Frank James, DRA Staff Director
- Farmer Veteran Coalition (California) — This award will allow FVC to expand its national peer network to facilitate access to training, education, internships, jobs, mentors, and other resources for beginning farmer veterans. FVC will also provide 27 on-farm workshops focusing on basic small-scale livestock/vegetable production practices, business planning, and risk management. Throughout the grant, farmer veterans will receive individualized support using a case management model.
“This award means a great deal to our efforts to support veterans transitioning into agriculture. We are thrilled to be expanding our national network, training opportunities, and one-on-one assistance at a time when the demand for our services is growing by leaps and bounds.” -Michael O’Gorman, Founder and Executive Director of Farmer Veteran Coalition
- Hmong National Development (Washington, DC) — The Hmong Agricultural Sustainability Training and Education (HASTE) Program enhances the long-term viability and sustainability of Hmong beginning farms and ranchers (BFRs) through education, training, and technical assistance. This project will increase awareness of financial assistance opportunities among Hmong BFRs, enhance profitability and sustainability of Hmong BFRs, and strengthen communication and collaboration between Hmong BFRs and key agricultural stakeholders.
“With support of NIFA’s Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program, HND will implement our Hmong Agricultural Sustainability Training and Education (HASTE) Program. The program offers education and business resources for disadvantaged Hmong farmers and ranchers in Missouri and Arkansas. In partnership with EnSave, the HASTE program will increase access to free energy audits, technical training and financial assistance for new farm operators. These audits provide potential reductions in annual operating costs by 10-30% in the first year, and expedite the eligibility process for accessing USDA financial assistance and energy incentives from NCRS as well as other agencies.” -Bao Vang, President/CEO of Hmong National Development
- Land for Good (New Hampshire) — Land For Good’s renewal grant continues to help New England’s beginning farmers access land and to improve the conditions for successful land access and transfer from retiring farming families and landowners. Through task forces and state teams, over 30 partners will assist seekers and landowners, improve farm link programs, explore innovative tenure models and support succession planning.
“We are especially proud of our broad collaboration which one proposal reviewer said demonstrates the strongest use of partnerships that I have seen in these grants.” – Kathy Ruhf, Senior Program Director at Land For Good
- Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association (Maine) — This award will support the Journeyperson Program, which equips new farmers with innovative production, management, and marketing skills throughout the state of Maine. During the next three years, 150 beginning farmers will receive training to start new farm businesses. This project also aims to increase capacity for new farmers to become mentors to the next generation of Maine farmers.
“This three-year grant from the USDA is a tremendous vote of confidence in MOFGA’s nationally recognized program to train new organic farmers in Maine. It will enable us to continue building our educational programs and add another 150 new organic farmers to the state.” -MOFGA Executive Director Ted Quaday
- Midwest Organic and Sustainable Education Service (Wisconsin) — This project will bring together 1,130 new and beginning sustainable farmers in Wisconsin, Minnesota, Iowa and Illinois for learning opportunities. These farmers will view successful organic operations, gain access to additional programs and resources, and learn basic sustainable farming and financial management practices. In addition to hosting various conference workshops and activities, MOSES will hold four regional two-day New Farmer Summits.
- World Farmers (Massachusetts) — This collaborative project will increase the agricultural production capacity of beginning, immigrant, and refugee farmers through farmer-to-farmer mentoring, training and technical assistance on all aspects of crop production and marketing necessary to operate a successful sustainable farming enterprise, increase farm ownership rates, and promote environmental stewardship. The target audience for this project is the over 250 beginning, immigrant, and refugee farmers who farm at the Flats Mentor Farm in Lancaster, MA.
“This grant makes it possible for World Farmers to build on our thirty year experience working with beginning, immigrant, and refugee farmers – providing support for farmers to enter into U.S. agriculture and building our next generation of farmers.” – Maria Moreira, Executive Director
Supporting Socially Disadvantaged & Veteran Farmers
The 2014 Farm Bill required that at least five percent of BFRDP funding advance projects supporting veterans and socially disadvantaged farmers.
This year, about 1o percent of the funded projects support veterans and farming, while about 50 percent of the projects support socially disadvantaged farmers and ranchers.
As in past years, NSAC will collaborate with member organization the Land Stewardship Project to conduct an analysis of BFRDP grantees and publish a a progress report that reveals historical programmatic funding trends and identifies opportunities to improve the program. We will publish a post about the evaluation when it is completed.
Full project descriptions for every awardee is available on the USDA-NIFA website here.