Beginning Farmer Help Aplenty
There is a lot of support for beginning and aspiring farmers available. As a wide sweep of Iowa farmers are nearing retirement, the need for a new batch of farmers is evident. Simultaneously, those starting a new farm face many obstacles, from land access, to business management knowledge, capital infrastructure investment, and knowing how to run—and fix—a tractor.
Gretchen McLain from Farm Services Agency and Tammy Nebola from Iowa Ag Development Division presented about government resources for beginning farmers as well. Their presentations can be viewed here.
The resource list below is merely those organizations that first came to mind when I thought about beginning farmer resources available to Iowans. There are many more out there. Feel free to add a comment and share additional beginning farmer resources I don’t include here.
Annie’s Project: Offered in 34 states, including Iowa and all contiguous states. Provides education to strengthen women’s roles in farming, including business planning, succession planning and farm management.
Iowa State University Beginning Farmer Center: Ag Link connects beginners with those transitioning out of farming.Ag succession workshops provide succession education. BFC also provides farm transition consultations and financial education.
Farmer Veteran Coalition: A national organization with an Iowa chapter. Helps veterans navigate applying for USDA veteran benefits and preferred programs. Hosts veteran-focused workshops and education, helps brand veteran-raised farm products with Homegrown by Heroes program.
Land Stewardship Project: Offers Farm Dreams, four hour farm planning/visioning class. Offers Farm Beginnings, year-long business and farm development course. LSP has partnered with other organizations to offer Farm Beginnings elsewhere in the U.S. as well. Their Journeyperson program, for Farm Beginning graduates, is a savings match program to help further budding farm businesses.
Midwest Organic and Sustainable Education Service: In addition to the biggest organic conference in the U.S. with many educational opportunities for beginning farmers, MOSES holds a New Farmer Summit and coordinates mentoring opportunities.
Women, Food and Agriculture Network: Hosts on-farm eight to ten week apprenticeships. Starting beginning farmer Learning Circles in 2015.
Start2Farm: This website is the national clearinghouse put together to showcase the multitude of beginning farmer resources supported by USDA’s Beginning Farmer and Rancher funding.
Last but not least:
Practical Farmers of Iowa: Labor4Learning program offers on-farm educational employment opportunities for aspiring farmers. Savings Incentive Program is a two-year program providing farmer mentorship, educational events, network of beginning and seasoned farmers, business plan development, business plan review by financial expert, and a savings match to put toward a farm asset. Annual next generation retreat offers overnight learning and networking retreat with other beginning farmers. Farminars, field days and annual conference workshops geared toward beginning farmers. FindAFarmer (currently works, but a much more functional iteration to be out soon), offers online map for landowners and land seekers to connect.