Farm Incubator Programs

Farmer Incubator Programs

Farm incubator programs are popping up around the country to help train a new fleet of farmers. These programs give temporary and affordable pieces of land to beginning farmers so that they can learn both practical farming skills and how to run a successful business. Below are five farm incubator programs around the country.

Have you been through one of the below incubator programs or another similar program? Tell us about it in the comments below!


Headwaters Farm Incubator Program

Eastern Multnomah Soil and Water Conservation District sponsors a farm incubator program at Headwaters Farm in the town of Orient, Oregon. This program leases out land at affordable rates to individuals to use as a launching pad for new farming projects. Multnomah county became interested in this project to help beginning farmers with institutional, cultural, and financial barriers find capital, quality farmland, farm equipment and infrastructure, and agricultural training. Selected applicants to the Headwaters Incubator Program will have some basic farm skills and have a viable farm business plan. Land is leased at a below market value, but will incrementally increase each year the farmer is in the program. By the fourth and final year the farmer will be paying full market value for the land. Applications for the 2014 growing season will open in the fall of 2013. Contact Rowan Steele, Farm Incubator Manager, at or 503.935.5355 with questions.


The Onslow County Incubator Farm Program

This is one of the newest incubator programs. It started this past February with the hope to train new vegetable and fruit farmers. This program is up and running with funding from the Bringing New Farmers to the Table project. Other partners include the Onslow County Farmers’ Market, Mount Olive College, and Onslow County Cooperative Extension Service. The program’s first class had 31 students for the course portion and about seven of these students will move on in August to work on the land, with equipment, and additional training. In the next part of the program these students will develop a farming plan and a financial plan.


ALBA’s Farmer Education Program—Programa Educativo para Agricultores (PEPA)

PEPA is a nine-month training program designed to train individuals in farm management and organic crop production. The course covers four modules including organic crop production and planning; marketing; small business management; and applied organic farming. The last module offers experience farming a small plot under supervised conditions. The class meets one evening (6-9pm) per week for a lecture and one weekend afternoon (1-5:30pm) for field day activities. Also, course credit is available for through Hartnell Community College. The cost of the course is dependent on a sliding scale. For more information contact Nathan Harkleroad, ALBA’s Agriculture Education Program Manager, at or 831-758-1469 ext. 11.


Land Stewardship Project’s Farm Beginnings Course

This is a ten-month training course for beginning farmers and those transitioning into more sustainable agriculture taught by established farmers. This course offers 43 hours of training through classroom learning, farm tours, field days, workshops and an extensive farmer network in the Midwest. For more information, contact Karen Benson, or 507-523-3366


New Entry National Incubator Farm Training Initiative (NIFTI)

Seeing the great success of their own farm incubator program that focused mostly on refugees, the New Entry Sustainable Farming Project decided to provide training for other incubator programs across the country. The NIFTI is a two-year program that includes an online resource center, a three-day intensive incubator farm field school, one-on-one technical assistance, and at least six webinars. This project is aimed at personnel of newer land-based incubator projects in their planning and development phases. For more information contact Eva Agudelo, National Technical Assistance Coordinator, at, or by phone at 978-654-5731.

Women Beginning Farmers & Ranchers Program

Holistic Management International is now accepting applications for its 2013/2014 Women Beginning Farmers & Ranchers program. Eligible applicants include woman from Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York, and Texas with less than 10 years farming or ranching experience. This is an intense nine month-long program that includes 60 hours of training. Participants learn both in the classroom and on the land. Since 2009 this program has gradated hundreds of women. Cost for this program is based on a sliding scale of $150-500. Partial and full scholarships are available, and are provided by the USDA/NIFA Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program. For questions and to learn more contact Ann Adams, HMI’s Director of Community Services.


Veteran Farming Programs

Nearly a million military servicemen and servicewomen come from rural areas across the country. Upon returning from service they can use their great sense of service to benefit farms. Farming is also empowering, giving these servicemen and women a sense of accomplishment – truly seeing the fruits of their labor. The following programs work with veterans, creating opportunities for them to find meaningful careers in the farming and agriculture.

Farmer Veteran Coalition

The Farmer Veteran Coalition uses food production as a means to offer purpose, opportunity, as well as physical and psychological benefits for veterans. A majority of the veterans the Coalition works with served recently in Iraq and Afghanistan, but the organization also serves military veterans of all eras and branches.


Veterans to Farmers

Veterans to Farmers operates with a goal to return the family farm to a prominent position on the American landscape. To do this they train and help American veterans who served in Iraq and Afghanistan. The organization specifically works with greenhouse agriculture. Their national training center is equipped and ready to teach aeroponic growing methods, greenhouse maintenance and construction, as well as business planning. The food grown at the training center is sold through a CSA. Upon completion of a 12-week training course, the organization helps veterans find employment and work with greenhouses.


Veteran Organic Farming Program

Delaware Valley College’s veteran organic farming program was originally designed for veterans, but because of high demand is now also open to non-veterans too. The college’s program runs in conjunction with the Rodale Institute in Kutztown, Pa., and consists of a one-year, 36-credit certificate in organic farming. Courses include: animal science, marketing, plant disease diagnosis and entomology, as well as hands on farming experience at Rodale. The college is a Yellow Ribbon School, meaning that veterans who are eligible for the Post-9/11 GI Bill will have up to 100% of their tuition paid.


Center for Rural Affairs Veteran Farmers Project

The Center for Rural Affairs’ Veteran Farmers Project offers training, individual help on finances and production, and a support helpline for veterans wishing to become farmers. The goal of the project is to create farm businesses that can tap into high value markets so that returning veterans can reintegrate into America’s rural communities. Last year the program held a 90-minute webinar that is available for viewing here. Additional videos that show a Marine veteran who operates a cattle business, and one that highlights Common Good Farm are also available here.

College Farms: West Coast Region

The Resource Spotlight blog has profiled student farms across the country, from the Northeast to the Southeast to the Midwest. Last, but not least, we’re highlighting student farms on the West Coast.

We know that we’ve missed quite a few impressive student farms…so let us know about your favorite in the comments below!

Visit the student farm directory from the Sustainable Agriculture Education Association or the Rodale Institute’s student farm list to learn more about university farms near you.



Stanford Community Farm – Stanford University

Stanford, California

The Stanford Community Farm dates back to 1885 when it was the Palo Alto Estate. 
Today the farm is run by a combination of faculty, staff and students. This organic farm keeps farming and agriculture front and center at the university—as exemplified by student farmers and an Earth Systems class taught on the farm. Spread over an one-acre lot, the farm has a fruit orchard, and many different student and community plots.

Contacts: Graduate, medical and postdoc students contact Jesse Bateman; Undergraduate students contact Patrick Archie; Staff and faculty contact Karen Zack



Organic Grower’s Club – Oregon State University

Corvallis, OR

The Organic Grower’s Club is a completely student-run, organic farm. The farm began in 2000 by a group of agriculture science students who wanted to build a hands-on experience into the curriculum. The farm spans two acres and now has over 300 students and 400 community members. Farm produce is sold in order to subsidize operational costs and summer student internships. Community building is an important part of the farm. Weekly events include: Sunday Skool work parties every Sunday 9-12 and Thursday night Harvest parties—with free hot supper—starting at 4:30.

 or click here to Join the Organic Growers Listserv



Organic Farm – Evergreen State College

Olympia, Washington

A five-acre area on the Evergreen campus accommodates a farmhouse, garden, biodiesel facility, compost facility, greenhouse and a 38,000 square foot, certified organic, crop production area. Students at the college enrolled in the Practice of Sustainable Agriculture Program become interns on the farm and grow, harvest and sell their bounty at both a campus farm stand and through a CSA.

Contact: (360) 867-6160 or email the Farm.



Agricultural Sustainability Institute – University of California Davis

Davis, California

The Agricultural Sustainability Institute started in 1977 and continues to serve UC Davis students, faculty, school children and community members. The program focuses on sustainable agriculture principles and practices, in-field experiential learning, and inspires students’ initiative, creativity and exploration. The university encourages students to participate on the farm and learn through internships, formal courses and research projects. Year-round crop production takes place on the 4.5-acre farm and produce is available through the university’s dining services and campus coffee houses. Fruit and vegetables are also available at the UC Davis Farmers’ Market and through a CSA.

Contact: Mark Van Horn or (530) 752-7645



UW Farm – University of Washington

Seattle, WA

This urban farm was started in 2004 by several students and faculty members wishing to inform the UW community about the global food system. The farm serves as a classroom for many different university classes from ecology to anthropology—and the farm also hosts a quarterly sustainable farm internship. The farm is an official registered student organization with over 600 members. Community is an important part of the farm, and is facilitated by pizza bakes in the farm’s outdoor oven. Stay updated with farm events by joining the listserve.


Urban Farming Farminar

Pennsylvania Women’s Agriculture Network (PA-WAgN) has begun hosting virtual seminars called FARMINARS. On July 1st PA-WAgN will provide a FARMINAR on urban agriculture.

During this online seminar Kirsten Reinford will share how she found space to farm in an urban setting, and how she was able to gather support and raise money to start her farm, Joshua Farm, in Harrisburg. Kirsten will also explain how her farm became a SNAP program vendor.

Joshua Farm is a thriving urban farm that has a CSA, farm stand and market. The farm employs youth from the area and holds service-learning workshops, cooking classes, and guest speakers.

To participate, log into, and enter as a guest. For more information contact Patty Neiner: 814-865-7031;

How to Sell Fruits and Vegetables to the USDA

The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) buys more than $530 million worth of frozen, processed, and fresh fruits and vegetables each year to supply schools, food banks and to distribute during disasters. Learn how to sell your farm’s produce to AMS at a free interactive webinar on Thursday June 27th at 2:00 pm EST. This free webinar is open to fruit and vegetable growers, and processors and distributors of all sizes.
The webinar will discuss how the USDA Commodity Procurement program works and what products the USDA buys; go over requirements for selling to the USDA and how small, socially disadvantaged, women and veteran-owned businesses can get involved; and provide all of the tools and resources necessary to do business with USDA. The webinar will conclude with a Q+A session.

Space is limited. Click here to register.

College Farms: Midwest Region

From the Northeast to the Southeast, the Resource Spotlight blog has highlighted student farms across the country. Now it’s time to focus on these farms in the Midwest! Check back frequently as we add more regions.

Visit the student farm directory from the Sustainable Agriculture Education Association or the Rodale Institute’s student farm list to learn more about university farms near you. If your college farm isn’t listed below, tell us about it in the comments section!



Sustainable Student Farm – University of Illinois Champaign-Urbana

Champaign-Urbana, Illinois

The Sustainable Student Farm at The University Of Illinois Urbana-Champaign supplies the university’s residence halls with fresh, local produce. The farm operates with 6-acres of outdoor space during the growing season and nearly 10,000 square feet of high tunnel production space year-round. The farm also sells produce at a market on the university’s quad from May-November, and this year it will be starting a pilot CSA with 30 shares. In addition to growing produce in a sustainable manner, the farm is also going off the grid with the installation of a new solar powered system.

Contact the farm here.



ISU Student Organic Farm – Iowa State University

Ames, Iowa

This 6-acre student farm began in the fall of 1996 and has been continuously student led and managed. Almost all of the fruits and vegetables produced at the farm are donated to shelters and food banks in Ames. Starting this coming fall, the farm will also sell its produce to ISU Dining.




MSU Student Organic Farm – Michigan State University

East Lansing, Michigan

The MSU Student Organic Farm is a 10-acre, certified organic farm that operates year-round. The farm sells its produce through a 48-week CSA, and a 7-month on campus farm stand, as well as to the MSU dining halls. This is a truly sustainable farm with passive solar greenhouses, enabling distribution of fresh produce through the winter. In addition, the farm also runs a 9-month Organic Farmer Training Program focused on organic farming techniques.




The Howdy Farm – Texas A&M

College Station, Texas

The Howdy Farm is a sustainable, student-run farm that provides both students and community members in College Station with hands-on experience in sustainable agriculture. The farm began in 2009 with a few square feet of raised beds, and now takes up 5-acres. Through partnering with dining services and having a CSA, the farm gets its fresh produce out to the university and the public. The farm serves as a living classroom, by providing ample opportunities for student internships, both undergraduate and graduate research, and a Horticulture Vegetable Crop Production course.