Beginning Farmer Grants

For Immediate Release
October 18, 2010

Ferd Hoefner, 202-547-5754

Beginning Farmer Grants Advance Goal of 100,000 New Farmers

Washington, D.C. October 18, 2010 — On Monday, October 18, USDA Deputy Secretary Kathleen Merrigan announced the recipients of $18 million in 2010 Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program grants at Ollins Farm in Longmont, CO.

The Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program (BFRDP) is a competitive grants program administered by USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA).  BFRDP grants are awarded to local, state, and regionally based networks and partnerships to support financial and entrepreneurial training, mentoring, and apprenticeships for beginning farmers and ranchers, as well as land link programs that connect retiring with new farmers and innovative farm transfer and transition practices.

“These beginning farmer project awards are an important first step toward realizing the goal of USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack of expanding farming opportunities by increasing the number of new farmers by at least 100,000 in the coming few years,” said NSAC Policy Director Ferd Hoefner.  “Beginning farmers face a range of challenges to successful start up including access to credit, access to land, access to markets and technical assistance” said Hoefner, “and as our farming population ages, it is essential that we find creative and innovative ways to support young people wanting to farm.  We credit the Department in particular for reaching out this year to the non-profit farming organizations with established track records in cultivating new farmers.  Local and regional family farm and sustainable agriculture organizations have been the pioneers in beginning farmer work and have much to offer to help reach the aggressive new goal.”

Of the forty 2010 BFRDP grants, nine were awarded to NSAC member organizations:

Center for Rural Affairs (Nebraska) to establish the “Nebraska Network for Beginning Farmers and Ranchers,” partnering with Legal Aid of Nebraska, Nebraska Sustainable Agriculture Society, University of Nebraska, and Nebraska Department of Agriculture to provide a range of educational activities and services and to unlock the land base held by senior farmers and ranchers in Nebraska.

Dakota Rural Action (South Dakota) for “South Dakota Beginning Farmer Training, Mentoring, Networking, and Marketing Support Project” to train beginning farm families in whole farm planning, business management, value-added marketing, and sustainable production methods; to facilitate mentor relationships between beginning farmers and “seasoned” farmers and ranchers; to connect 60 farm families to South Dakota-based opportunities for farmland, equipment, and experience transfer in the DRA Farmer Network; and to provide market support to 100 beginning farmers through the South Dakota Local Foods Directory and a new online local foods buying cooperative in eastern South Dakota.

Grassworks, Inc (Wisconsin) has received a planning grant to develop curriculum and to create an apprenticeship program with the Wisconson Dept. of Workforce Development to be delivered through the Wisconsin state technical college system .  The program will provide dairy grazing apprenticeships and grow new farmers in the same way that the plumbing, electric and welding industries create apprentice, journeyman.

Just Food (New York) to initiate the “New York City School of Urban Agriculture,” creating an agricultural training resource for underserved communities in New York City and the Northeast and provide beginning urban farmers with the knowledge and skills to produce food sustainably and develop and manage innovative marketing activities.

Land for Good (New Hampshire) for “Land Here! Assuring Land Access for Beginning New England Farmers” to adequately prepare beginning farmers in New England to make sound land acquisition choices; increase the number of exiting farm families prepared to transfer to the next generation; make land held by non-farmers more available, affordable and accessible for beginners; enable farmers and farm property holders to find each other; and advance innovative land tenure and transfer methods and tools.

Land Stewardship Project
(Minnesota) to support “Farmers Growing Farmers: Next Generation Education in Four Learning Stages” to pilot new farmer training approaches that together with successful existing trainings will provide education and support for 1,200 beginning and prospective farmers including 168 successful farm business start-ups.

National Center for Appropriate Technology
(North Carolina) for “Bringing New Farmers to the Table: A Comprehensive Support Program to Meet North Carolina’s Ten Percent Local Food Challenge” to build support for beginning farmers into every aspect of the Ten Percent local food campaign; to create workshops, webinars, and educational materials; and to provide direct technical assistance, legal counseling, mentoring, intern and apprenticeship services, and a new farmer placement program.

Northeast Organic Farming Association of New York (New York) for “Growing Beginning Farmers in the Northeast through Regional Programming, Tools, and Community” to provide a formal apprenticeship program for beginning farmers in New York; to support beginning farmers who have begun farming independently through a formal mentoring program; and to deliver comprehensive technical assistance to beginning farmers through on-farm field days, annual conferences, and workshops.

Practical Farmers of Iowa (Iowa) for “Supporting the Surge of Beginning Iowa Farmers” to engage beginning farmers in workshops, retreats, quarterly online “Farminars,” and online networking, and to build upon existing on-farm mentoring and outreach programs in order to help beginners network, plan and grow their businesses, learn stewardship, production, and life skills, and apply those skills to become a new generation of profitable, sustainable farmers.

In addition to the eight direct grants noted above, two NSAC members will be collaborators on two other BFRDP grants:

Virginia Polytechnic University, in association with NSAC member Virginia Association of Biological Farming for “Virginia Beginning Farmer and Rancher Coalition Project” to create sustainable educational networks and social support for beginning farmers by developing a Virginia Beginning Farmer Coalition; adopt and implement best educational practices, whole farm planning curricula, and guidebook for farm entry in Virginia; and to encourage ongoing farmer participation in virtual and mentoring communities.

Clemson University Cooperative Extension, in partnership with NSAC member Carolina Farm Stewardship Association for “Building Entrepreneurial, Business Management, and Land Stewardship Capacity for South Carolina New and Beginning Farmers” to help sustain South Carolina’s largest industry and foster development of new and innovative techniques by next-generation farmers. The New and Beginning Farmer program will include an application process, 40 hours of classroom instruction, site visits to successful farms, entrepreneurship training, participation in statewide agricultural organization meetings, a mentoring program and optional internships.

The Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program was originally conceived of and developed by NSAC.  It was authorized in the 2002 Farm Bill and was provided $75 million in mandatory funding in the 2008 Farm Bill.  This is the second year of project awards, with two more rounds scheduled in 2011 and 2012.  In order to continue into the future, the farm bill funding will need to be renewed when Congress considers the 2012 Farm Bill.

See a complete listing of 2010 and 2009 BFRDP grantees and project descriptions.

For more information, see our Grassroots Guide to the 2008 Farm Bill and the BFRDP website.

The National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition is a grassroots alliance that advocates for federal policy reform supporting the long-term social, economic, and environmental sustainability of agriculture, natural resources, and rural communities.