Farm Progress

Apply for beginning farmer Savings Incentive Program

Iowa residents who qualify to participate can apply until Nov. 11; submit applications online.

October 5, 2017

3 Min Read
GROWING NEW FARMERS: The PFI Savings Incentive Program helps beginning farmers get started. This will be the eighth round of beginners admitted into the two-year program, which has served 127 individuals since it began in 2010.

Practical Farmers of Iowa is accepting applications for the Savings Incentive Program Class of 2019. The two-year program for beginning farmers was launched in 2010, and has since served 127 individuals on their path to establishing a successful farm business.

The program aims to help beginning farmers succeed through mentorship from an experienced farmer, business plan support, the chance to save money and receive matching funds, the opportunity to attend a range of targeted learning events, and access to a network of supportive farmers.

Steve Carlson, manager of the beginning farmer Savings Incentive Program for PFI says, “This very successful program for beginning farmers addresses a variety of barriers they face when starting a farm business.” In this program they receive:

 a farming mentor and networking opportunities with other beginning farmers

 a dollar-for-dollar match up to $2,400 for a total of $4,800 

 support in writing a business plan

Application period open through Nov. 11
Applications will be accepted through Nov. 11. Applications must be filled out and submitted using the online application form at

Applications are evaluated by a committee of PFI members using a scoring system that rewards a noticeable commitment to developing independent farming goals. Up to 12 beginning farmers will be admitted this round, with selections being made in early 2018.

The savings component of the Savings Incentive Program works by encouraging enrollees to save $100 per month for two years. After 24 months and completion of all program requirements, participants earn a dollar-for-dollar match on money saved up to $2,400 — for a possible $4,800 that may be used to help purchase a farm asset. Since the program was first launched, more than $148,000 has been matched and given to beginning farmers who have completed the program.

Funding helps beginning farmers get started
This money match helps beginning farmers overcome prohibitive startup costs, but many participants cite the networking, mentorship and business planning as the most beneficial aspects of the program. Beginning farmer Dawn Anderson says of the program: “I learned so much in two years! The program has made me much more efficient as a producer, and I have other producers to go to for consultations when I need help. I feel like I’m lightyears ahead of where I would have been on my own.”


As part of the program, participants meet with a mentor at least three times in the first year. Participants also:

 open and manage a savings account with PFI’s partner bank

 meet at least one time in person with a business plan reviewer

 create or fine-tune a business or whole-farm plan

 attend at least four PFI events per year, such as online trainings, on-farm field days and workshops

 conduct online quarterly reviews with PFI staff to check on progress toward goals and program requirements

 complete all forms and requested information on time

Program eligibility
Applicants must either be farming on their own and have farmed for five or fewer years, or they must have some experience working for a farm business. This includes, but is not limited to, internships, apprenticeships, working as an hourly or salaried employee, or working on the family farm.

Applicants must also be members of PFI, and either reside or farm in Iowa. Those who aren’t members can join at or by calling 515-232-5661. For questions about the Savings Incentive Program or application process, contact Greg Van Den Berghe at [email protected] or 515-232-5661.

Mentoring, opportunities to learn
“I don't believe there is any other organization that offers mentoring, financial assistance, research and the opportunities to see and learn from other farmers,” Dawn Anderson says. “The programs offered through PFI are invaluable, and I'm grateful to be a member and a recipient of the Savings Incentive Program and other educational opportunities.”

PFI strengthens farms and communities through farmer-led investigation and information-sharing. Values include welcoming everyone; creativity, collaboration and community; viable farms now and for future generations; and stewardship and ecology. Founded in 1985, farmers in the network raise corn, soybeans, livestock, hay, fruits and vegetables, and more.

Source: Practical Farmers of Iowa

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