5 Guides for Beginning Farmers

Photo © Patty O'Brien / www.summercrowphotos.com

Photo © Patty O’Brien / www.summercrowphotos.com

If you’re thinking about starting a farm, there are many groups who do work with beginning farmers. Some have published free guides that provide lots of information that will be useful as you get started. Here are a few of our favorites:

  1. The Greenhorns’ Guide for Beginning Farmers is designed to help young people develop careers in agriculture. It highlights helpful readings and resources about land access, financing farm businesses, and building technical skills.
  2. Penn State Extension’s Starting or Diversifying an Agricultural Business walks you through all the steps of starting a business, from analyzing business opportunities to getting off the ground.
  3. The Northeast Beginning Farmers Project at Cornell has a Getting Started guide that focuses on identifying your goals, skills, and resources to build an enterprise.
  4. New Entry Sustainable Farming Project’s guide on How to Begin Your Small Farm Dream is a plain language guide that provides a clear overview of the benefits and challenges of owning a farm, as well as the resources to realize those benefits.
  5. ATTRA’s Start a Farm in the City Guide walks you through starting an urban farm, touching on soil testing, finding markets, and resources specifically for urban farmers.

To find beginning farmer guides specific to your region, use our search tool to find an organization that provides the specific assistance and resources you need. Our online directory contains more than 750 organizations all over the United States that work directly with farmers on a variety of issues.

New Resource: A Young Farmers Guide to Election Season from National Young Farmers Coalition

Our friends at National Young Farmers Coalition recently wrote a guide for young farmers on engaging with political candidates this election season. They provide five specific ideas for how to engage, including:

  1. Attend a town hall or candidate forum.
  2. Ask a question at a local debate.
  3. Get a group of local farmers together to request an on-farm meeting with the candidate.
  4. Engage the candidates on social media.
  5. Bring your friends into the conversation.

Read details on how to engage in those actions here: http://www.youngfarmers.org/a-young-farmers-guide-to-election-season/

December 22: Free webinar on farm insurance options

Farmers! Insurance for your farming operation is important, but navigating the options can be overwhelming and confusing at times.

If you have lingering questions about insurance and risk management, then Farm Commons has answers! Join them online on Tuesday, December 22, 2015 at 3:00 p.m. Eastern for a free webinar — Insurance for the Farm: Policies and Principles to Efficiently Manage Risk — to address common questions, such as:

  • What’s a farm liability policy and is it the same as a property/casualty policy?
  • How does it work with a homeowner’s policy?
  • Is workers’ compensation required and how does it work?
  • When do you need to look into getting a commercial policy?
  • What are affordable crop insurance options for the sustainable farm?

Advance registration is required. Click here to register and to learn more about it.

“QuickBooks for Farmers” online course starting October 5th

Image courtesy of AgBiz Assist

Image courtesy of AgBiz Assist

Do you ever wish that your farm’s financial information was better organized and easier to use to make business decisions? If so, then the Northeast Beginning Farmer Project’s new online course, BF 204: QuickBooks for Farmers, might be for you!

This course will teach you the basics of using QuickBooks, a popular accounting software, from a farmer’s perspective. All farmers are welcome to participate, beginning and experienced alike. The only prerequisite is a desire to start using QuickBooks for your farm’s recordkeeping.

The course last six weeks, running from October 5 through November 9, 2015. It involves participating in one weekly webinar each Monday night from 7:00 to 8:00 p.m. Eastern, plus additional readings and homework assignments.

The cost is $200 per person. Visit the course’s webpage to register and to learn more about the specific topics covered.

Upcoming webinar: Opportunities for Conservation in Organic Livestock Systems

Photo: Flickr Creative Commons, Pamzpix

Photo: Flickr Creative Commons, Pamzpix

Next Tuesday, August 4th at 3:00 p.m. Eastern the USDA Natural Resource Conservation Service (NRCS) is hosting Opportunities for Conservation in Organic Livestock Systems, a free webinar to highlight organic livestock systems and their conservation benefits.

USDA staff will begin the webinar by describing organic management practices and regulations relevant to livestock, focusing on pasture and outdoor access, feed management, and pasture management. Next they’ll highlight conservation practices that can work well with organic livestock systems, such as rotational grazing, fencing, and pasture management.

During the webinar, New Hampshire farmer Steve Normanton will talk about his grass-fed beef farm and how he put NRCS conservation practices into action.

Pre-registration for the webinar is not required. Click here for more information and instructions on how to join.

National Young Farmers Coalition guide to land trusts

Finding-Farmland-guidebook-for-storeOne of the biggest challenges that new farmers face is finding and securing land. Land trusts can be one source of help. Land trusts are non-profit organizations that are setup by a community to protect a resource like wildlife habitats or farmland.

The National Young Farmers Coalition recently released a guide to help farmers who want to partner with land trusts to procure affordable land. The guide explains the technicalities of working with such groups and provides farmers with a toolbox of practical information and resources to get a partnership started.

Purchase a copy of the guide for $8 at NYFC’s online store or download a copy from the website.

Vermont Organic Dairy Producers Conference

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Photo: © Patty O’Brien / www.summercrowphotos.com


The 5th Annual Vermont Organic Dairy Producers Conference is coming up on March 11th from 9:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. The conference is sponsored by the University of Vermont Extension’s Northwest Crops & Soils Program and NOFA Vermont’s Organic Dairy and Livestock Technical Assistance Program.

Keynote speakers include Dr. Roger Moon, a veterinary entomologist at the University of Minnesota, and Dr. Guy Jodarski, a staff veterinarian for Organic Valley, CROPP Cooperative. Dr. Moon will talk about pests and organic dairy, and Dr. Jodarski will cover innovative ways to deal with livestock health, nutrition, and management challenges.

Sessions include farmer-to-farmer panels that feature certified organic farmers telling stories of their challenges and successes.

Registration closes Wednesday, March 4th. Visit UVM Extension for more information and to register.

Apply for the 2015 Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program

Photo: © Patty O'Brien / www.summercrowphotos.com

Photo: © Patty O’Brien / www.summercrowphotos.com

The deadline is approaching for the 2015 Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program (BFRDP). The USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) administers this program, which funds initiatives aimed at helping beginning farmers and ranchers. Individual are not eligible for this program. Groups like State Cooperative Extension Services, community based organizations, non-profits, and colleges and universities may apply for a grant to support educational courses, technical assistance programming, and outreach initiatives.

The deadline for applications is 5:00 pm EST on Friday, March 13th.

Click here for more information about this program, and view the request for applications on NIFA’s website.

Food Tank’s Featured Organizations Helping Veterans

Photo © Patty O’Brien | www.summercrowphotos.com

Photo © Patty O’Brien | www.summercrowphotos.com

Veteran’s Day has come and gone, but we support our nation’s veterans all year long. To celebrate the recent holiday, Food Tank posted an article featuring 21 organizations around the world that are dedicated to cultivating a community of veterans working in farming and agriculture. The list was just too good not to share, highlighting many organizations that are already featured in Farm Aid’s Farmer Resource Network.

The following was taken directly from Food Tank’s “21 Projects Helping Vets Through Food and Agriculture:”

Armed to Farm (ATF) is a National Center for Appropriate Technology program that provides training on sustainable agriculture to veterans. ATF is a combination of farm tours and classroom instruction that focuses on business planning, livestock production, and fruit and vegetable production.

Combat Boots to Cowboy Boots is a University of Nebraska-Nebraska College of Technical Agriculture program that prepares veterans to work in the agricultural field through education and training. The program helps match the participants with farm and ranch owners.

Community Youth Network Program (CYNP) was founded by former Liberian soldier, Junior Toe, to give purpose to ex-combatants trying to reintegrate into society. Toe teaches former soldiers to raise poultry, grow produce, and earn money through farming to support their families. CYNP also runs a Young Farmers Forum to create a community for its members.

Delaware Valley College Organic Farming Program for Military and Vets is a one-year certification program offered through Delaware Valley College and Rodale Institute that trains veterans in organic farming in order to transition them back to civilian life. Students take courses in subjects such as commercial vegetable production, sustainable agriculture, and plant health management.

Eat the Yard, in Dallas, Texas, was founded by Iraq War veterans, James Jeffers and Steve Smith, to cultivate fresh produce in community gardens. Jeffers and Smith first began organic farming in their own backyards for both therapeutic and financial reasons, then slowly began to build more gardens in their community. They now sell the produce from these gardens to local restaurants and businesses.

Farmer Field Schools (FFS) was developed in post-conflict northern Uganda, by the International Institute of Rural Reconstruction (IIRR) in partnership with the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO). The program teaches modern agricultural skills to Ugandan refugees and internally displaced persons (IDPs). The training emphasizes practice-oriented learning and small group meetings based on similar interests. Upon graduation, smallholder farmers are awarded a grant to start their own agricultural enterprise.

The Farmer Veteran Coalition (FVC) is working with veterans across the U.S. to transition into agriculture. The Coalition partners veterans with mentors who are experienced in farming and business, matches them with job opportunities in agriculture, and organizes equipment donations in Iowa and California. FVC is helping former members of the armed forces in 48 states.

Goat Peak Ranch is a ranch in New Mexico that offers a Veterans Internship Program. The Program offers weekend and weeklong educational sessions and accepts veterans to assist on the ranch year-round.

Heroic Food is a tuition-free farmer-training program for military veterans in partnership with the FVC. Heroic Food places veterans in paid on-farm apprenticeships and teaches them about sustainable farming, agricultural trade, and food crafting.

Lucky Nickel Ranch, owned by a Marine Corps veteran, serves as both an organic farm and a classroom for veterans. The program partners with the University of Arizona College of Life Sciences and Extension in order to provide both training and classroom time, where participants learn about the science of farming and how to write a business plan.

Roots to Road is a program operated by the Vancouver-based job training agency Partners in Careers. The program employs veterans to farm a one-acre plot; the produce is then donated to local charities.

Semper Fresh Farms is run by two U.S. Marine Corps veterans. The farm works in conjunction with veterans’ organizations such as the FVC in order to train and employ veterans.

Vets to Ag is a program at Michigan State University that trains homeless U.S. veterans to work in the field of agriculture. Participants are trained in areas such as plant and soil science, equipment operation, and integrated pest management. Job development and employer outreach is included in the Vets to Ag program.

Veterans Agricultural Center of Connecticut (VACC) provides both training and therapy to veterans. VACC provides hands-on instruction in farming skills for participants as well as full-service handicap accessible lodging and employment services.

Veterans to Farmers (VTF) strives to bring family farming back to the forefront of the American landscape. VTF was founded by U.S. Marine Corps Veteran Buck Adams in 2011 after overwhelming veteran interest in his organic greenhouse program. Veterans complete a 12-week program, then VTF provides employment support. Several of the VTF graduates now own their own greenhouses, including Evan Premer who describes the greenhouse as a “decompression zone.”

Veteran Farmers of America (VFA) helps veterans make a transition back to civilian life by introducing them to farming. VFA provides veterans with paid internships and places them at a vegan-operated farm.

Veteran Farmers Project is a Center for Rural Affairs program that gives veterans, almost a million of whom come from rural communities, an opportunity to return to their agricultural roots and reinvigorate America’s small farms. The Project provides veterans with agricultural education to help them succeed as farmers.

Veterans Farm Veterans Training Program is partnered with the Veteran Network on Farming and Success to train veterans in all aspects of agriculture. Students in this program learn how to improve irrigation and produce quality organic crops. Veteran farmers receive training in operations management, organic certification, and management skills.

Veterans Sustainable Agriculture Training (VSAT) Program trains transitioning service men and women in all aspects of agriculture and food production, including hydroponics, environmental control, and greenhouse management during a six-week intensive course. The program also assists more than 200 graduates in job placement and business creation.

Warriors that Farm works with Texas A&M University in order to provide opportunities for veterans through sustainable agriculture. The university provides credit hours upon completion of the program.

317 Village in Chhuk District, Kampot Province is a Cambodian government-funded initiative that has committed US $3 million to provide 240 families of military veterans and disabled war victims with houses and plots of land to farm. Each plot measures approximately 1.5 acres. This project is providing new hope to families whose homes and livelihoods were destroyed by civil war.

High Tunnel Workshops in Iowa

Iowa State University Extension and Outreach is hosting a series of classes for growers producing crops in high tunnels. The “High Tunnel 101” workshop will cover: high tunnel selection, construction, soil management, irrigation, pest management, bed design and cropping systems. The “Advance High Tunnel Tomato Production” workshop is offered to growers who already use high tunnel technology. Topics will include: environmental control, nutrient management, foliar sampling, hands-on grafting practice, production budgets and succession plantings for maximum efficiency. Participants will leave with a high tunnel manual for future reference. 

Fees: $55 per person or $90 per couple (or employees of the same farm), and includes a resource guide, lunch and refreshments. Pre-registration is required. Click here for more information.

High Tunnel 101

Heartland Acres Events Center, 2600 Swan Lake Blvd, Independence, Iowa
Oct. 27, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Call Buchanan County Extension by Oct. 23 to register at 319-334-7161

Annelise Winery, 15110 Hwy 92, Indianola, Iowa
Oct. 30, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Call Warren County Extension by Oct. 28 to register at 515-961-6237

Lee County Extension Office, 414 N Main St., Donnellson, Iowa
Nov. 7, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Call Lee County Extension by Nov. 5 to register at 319-835-5116

Advance High Tunnel Tomato Production

North Iowa Events Center, 4-H Learning Center, 3700 4th St. SW, Mason City, Iowa

Nov. 18, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Call Cerro Gordo County Extension by Nov. 14 to register at 641-423-0844