Published May 12, 2016

What is the “Incentive” in the Savings Incentive Program?

By Greg Padget

What is the “incentive” part of the Savings Incentive Program? Well it can be many things such as completing a business plan or developing a great network of business and operation advisers. But, overwhelmingly it’s getting your savings doubled upon completion of the program. Each class member stows away an average of $100 per month into a personal savings account and then upon graduation Practical Farmers matches that amount to be used to purchase a long-term asset for their farming operation. This can be up to $2,400 dollars in match towards something that will add value to their operation, $4,800 in total to spend.

This winter our 2015 SIP class finished their requirements and got the green light to spend their “incentive money” and the payout request started to roll into our office. One of the most popular purchases tends to be a tractor. What farm can’t use a tractor, right? This was the natural choice for Tony Thompson of New Family Farm when he decided to purchased a mid-60s AC D15 for his farm.   This tractor will complement his AC-G cultivating tractor as his main work horse.  He’ll use it to work the soil, plant seeds/transplants and dig potatoes.

Planting Potatoes

Thompson family planting potatoes

“The matching SIP funds certainly have been helpful, but more helpful has been the chance to see what other operations look like through mentorship and PFI events. While I’m still figuring out what I’d like my operation to look like 5 years from now, I’m a lot more aware of what is realistic and what is less realistic.” – Tony Thompson, New Family Farm

Other beginning farmers found that a tractor wasn’t right for their farm or they already had one. For example Matt Roe of Terraceberry Farm used his savings match to purchase blueberry plants. These plants will be producing for the next 40-50 years. Janna Feldman of Does and Divas Dairy  found the best use of her resources was equipment and some cheese-cave landscaping for her Doe’s and Diva’s Dairy. Now she is getting rave reviews from her taste-testers of the ice cream she is creating out of sheep and goat milks as she fine-tunes her recipes.

Having the savings incentive to spend is wonderful, but the habit of saving money encourages these beginning farmers to save beyond the two year program. Beyond just learning to save money the Savings Incentive Program aids beginning farmers as they are establishing their business. Matt Roe said “Probably the best thing it did for me was keeping me focused and accountable.  The regular check-ins helped me see the big picture.” Check out the current class participants and stay tuned for an update on what they decide to purchase upon graduation.