Published Nov 3, 2011

Practical Farmers of Iowa Receives $128,800 Grant for Beginning Farmer Program

By Ann Seuferer

November 3, 2011

Ann Seuferer | Practical Farmers of Iowa | 515.232.5661 |
Sally Worley | Practical Farmers of Iowa | 515.232.5661 |

AMES, IOWA – Practical Farmers of Iowa has been awarded a $128,800 Assets for Independence (AFI) grant by the Administration for Children and Families, Office of Community Services within the Department of Health and Human Services. With the addition of the AFI grant, Practical Farmers has now raised more than $290,000 from more than 100 individuals and businesses for the Savings Incentive Program, which is $40,000 above its goal of $250,000.

These funds will help the 27-year-old nonprofit, sustainable-agriculture organization to implement a program designed to assist beginning farmers to make a living on the land. The Savings Incentive Program works by encouraging beginning farmers to save approximately $100 each month for two years. After two years and completing all program requirements, beginning farmers’ savings will be matched by Practical Farmers of Iowa so that each beginner could have up to $4800 to put toward a farm asset such as land, machinery or livestock. During the two-year period, enrollees will create or fine tune a business plan and participate in programming to help them create a successful farm business.

There are approximately 500 beginning farmers within the Practical Farmers membership. According to Practical Farmers of Iowa board member Sean Skeehan, “The Savings Incentive Program exists to help new farmers create a sound business plan vetted by professionals and to give them a seasoned mentor to work with. I have heard of many energetic and optimistic new farmers with the knowledge and ability to grow crops and raise livestock who quickly stumble or fail because they lack basic business planning. The Savings Incentive Program ensures that new farmers ask themselves questions, test their ideas on paper and work with experienced professionals.“

Beginning farmer and 2010 SIP recipient Sara Hanson, owner of Prairie Sky Farm, says, “I appreciate the guidance I’m getting to create a business plan for my farm. And, I always tell other beginning farmers that if I could choose only one organization to below to, Practical Farmers of Iowa would be my first choice.”

There are many factors working against beginners like Sara, high-priced farmland and low returns for their labor, for example. The funds from the AFI grant will allow Practical Farmers to serve 100 beginning farmers through the program by 2016.

“The matched savings component of the Savings Incentive Program gives new farmers a great incentive to develop or strengthen a savings mentality,” Skeehan adds. “At the end of the Savings Incentive Program cycle, each new farmer completing the program will have an educated and solid plan for their operation and a good chunk of money with which to make a business purchase. Contributions to the Savings Incentive Program fund from individuals, companies, foundations and government grants are the lifeblood that enables Practical Farmers of Iowa to develop the next generation of farmers who will use ecologically sound and community-enhancing approaches to agriculture.”

Some of the other major donors to the program are: AgVentures Alliance, the Soper Family, the Schnieder Family Foundation, G. David Hurd, the Fred and Charlotte Hubbell Foundation, and Helen D. Gunderson (in memory of her parents, Marion and Deane Gunderson).

Founded in 1985, Practical Farmers of Iowa is an open, supportive and diverse organization of farmers and friends of farmers, advancing profitable, ecologically sound and community-enhancing approaches to agriculture through farmer-to-farmer networking, farmer-led investigation and information sharing. Farmers in our network produce corn, soybeans, beef cattle, hay, fruits and vegetables, and more. For additional information, call 515.232.5661 or visit

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