In the next five years an estimated 42% of Iowa farmers will retire, according to the 2009 Iowa Farm and Rural Life Poll. What happens to all that land and who ends up farming it could change forever the future of Iowa's landscape, environment and food production.
This issue is the impetus behind Practical Farmers of Iowa's Next Generation and Savings Incentive Program. The organization announced recently the first 10 recipients of its new Savings Incentive Program, which is designed to encourage the next generation of farmers to make regular deposits into a savings account for their future farm development. The Savings Incentive Program will then match their savings dollar for dollar up to $2,400 so at the end of two years, recipients will have $4,800 to use toward a business purchase.
The Next Generation and Savings Incentive Programs work together to ensure new farmers have access to research, on-farm demonstration projects, field days and other educational opportunities as well as mentoring and business planning. This is in addition to the matched funds.
The program is aimed at helping young people get started farming
"We need to ensure that a new generation of farmers can make a living farming. Our goal is to give beginning farmers the educational tools and resources they need to help them run a successful farming operation," says Practical Farmers of Iowa's Next Generation director Sally Worley. "It's hard to get the capital needed to launch a new farm. It's a big investment and it takes a while before a farmer typically sees a return on that investment."
PFI's Savings Incentive Program can help new farmers purchase a farm asset such as a piece of machinery, land or livestock. Each farmer selected this year completed and submitted an application in October and agreed to save monthly for his or her business, attend at least four Practical Farmers of Iowa educational events per year, meet with an experienced farmer mentor three times in a year and complete or fine tune an existing business plan before 2012.
First 10 recipients in this "matching funds" program selected
Nathan Anderson, Cherokee; Ethan Book, Knoxville; Garrett Caryl, Colo; Sara Hanson, Wesley; Jason Jones, Capitol Heights; Eric Madsen, Audubon; Ryan Marquardt, Reasnor; Alice McGary & Nicholas Leete, Ames; Ben Saunders, Des Moines; and Joel Winnes, Waukon, are the first 10 recipients of 90 that will be selected over a five-year period from 2010 through 2014. To view profiles of the 2010 SIP recipients, visit www.practicalfarmers.org/programs/youth-and-next-generation/SIPrecipients.html
These 10 farming operations were selected by an objective panel of PFI members, using criteria outlined in PFI's Savings Incentive Program. As part of the application process, applicants explained how they would use the funds if awarded to them. Recipient Jason Jones is planning to purchase a walk-in cooler for fresh produce; Ryan Marquardt has his eye on a new poultry building and egg-washing equipment; and Nathan Anderson is planning to purchase additional livestock with his savings.
According to beginning farmer Sara Hanson, the learning opportunities are at least as valuable, or maybe more valuable, than the funds. "I will use this opportunity to build a better business plan and learn about production techniques," she says.
To be considered for program in 2011, you have to apply for it
Creation of the Next Generation and the Savings Incentive programs was made possible by a federal grant to Practical Farmers of Iowa from USDA. The matching funds were provided by the generous supporters of PFI. Over $132,000 in donations was raised in the year 2010, and the PFI organization plans to raise another $120,000 in 2011 to keep the matching funds available through 2016.
The next round of applications will be due sometime in 2011. An announcement will be made on PFI's website practicalfarmers.org. Or for more information, contact Sally Worley at 515-232-5661, ext. 309 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
Practical Farmers of Iowa includes a diverse group of farmers and non-farmers. Corn, soybeans, beef cattle and hay are the top enterprises for PFI farmers, although many have a variety of other operations, including fruits and vegetables. PFI's programming stresses farmer-to-farmer networking through research and demonstration, field days, conferences and more. For more information, call 515-232-5661 or visit www.practicalfarmers.org.