Savings Incentive Program sets beginning farmers on right path – Apply by Oct. 7

For Release: September 23, 2016

AMES, Iowa — Practical Farmers of Iowa is currently accepting applications to its Savings Incentive Program, which helps those seeking a career in agriculture start out on the right path thanks to help from an experienced mentor, access to a strong support network, help drafting a solid business plan and a few thousand dollars in start-up cash.

Applications for this competitive program only open once a year, and must be submitted by October 7 using the online form found at http://practicalfarmers.org/savings-incentive-program. Those admitted will be part of the the 2017-2018 class. Submissions will be evaluated by a committee of Practical Farmers members using a scoring system that rewards a noticeable commitment to developing applicants’ independent farming goals.

The Savings Incentive Program works by encouraging enrollees to save $100 per month for two years. After 24 months and completion of all program requirements, participants earn a dollar-for-dollar match on money saved up to $2,400, for a possible $4,800 that may be used to help purchase a farm asset. Participants are also paired with an experienced farm mentor, connected with a network of farming peers and learning opportunities, and receive help creating a farm business plan. To date, the program has helped over 100 beginning farmers get started.

Having a solid business plan benefits a farm business in many ways. Not only does it serve as a road map for future growth, it can be used to help secure additional funding. Creating a business plan is a core part of the Savings Incentive Program. Participants receive resources to help them get started, assistance from business plan reviewers and have regular progress check-ins with Practical Farmers’ staff.

“The most valuable aspects of the program were the regular, consistent check-ins and reviews that made me revisit my business plan often,” says Matt Roe, of Terraceberry Farm near Allerton. “A business plan is very easy to put off for another day, especially after the excitement of starting a farm starts to wear off.”

Matt and his wife Jocelyn graduated from the Savings Incentive Program in 2015 and used their savings match to purchase blueberry plants they hope will produce fruit for the next 40 to 50 years.

Program Requirements: As part of the Savings Incentive Program, participants are paired with a mentor, with whom they must meet in-person at least three times in the first year. Participants also open and manage a savings account with Practical Farmers’ partner bank; meet at least one time in person with a business plan reviewer; create or fine-tune a business or whole-farm plan; attend at least four Practical Farmers events per year (these include online trainings, field days, conferences, workshops and more); and conduct quarterly reviews with Practical Farmers staff to check on progress toward goals and program requirements

Eligibility: Applicants must either be farming on their own now and have farmed for five or fewer years; or they must have some experience working for a farm business. This includes, but is not limited to: internships, apprenticeships, working as an hourly or salaried employee, or working on the family farm.

Applicants must also be members of Practical Farmers of Iowa, and either reside or farm in Iowa. Those who are not members can join at practicalfarmers.org or by calling (515) 232-5661. For questions about the Savings Incentive Program or application process, contact Greg Van Den Berghe at [email protected] or (515) 232-5661.

Danelle Myer, of One Farm in Logan, felt the components of the program helped her turn her farm dream into a reality: “I truly feel like it propels the farmer and the farm into the real world. I loved it!” Danelle graduated from the program in 2015 and used her savings match to purchase an implement for her tractor, as well as a farm vehicle to transport crops.

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Practical Farmers of Iowa strengthens farms and communities through farmer-led investigation and information-sharing. Our values include: welcoming everyone; creativity, collaboration and community; viable farms now and for future generations; and stewardship and ecology. Founded in 1985, farmers in our network raise corn, soybeans, livestock, hay, fruits and vegetables, and more. To learn more, visit http://practicalfarmers.org

Contact:

Greg Van Den Berghe | Practical Farmers of Iowa | (515) 232-5661 | [email protected]

Steve Carlson | Practical Farmers of Iowa | (515) 232-5661 | [email protected]