USDA has announced $560,998 in funding over the next three years for Practical Farmers of Iowa to help ensure the success of the next generation of Iowa farmers. The grant was awarded to PFI, headquartered in Ames, to develop statewide training that will help beginning farmers and ranchers operate profitably while being good stewards of the land that sustains them.
"Beginning farmers and ranchers are an important part of American agriculture, as they play a big role in feeding people in their local communities and throughout the world," says Roger Beachy, director of USDA's National Institute of Food and Agriculture, or NIFA. "However, they face unique challenges, and this grant will provide the training needed to ensure these producers become profitable and sustainable."
NIFA awarded the grant through its Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program. That program is an education-training, technical-assistance-and-outreach program designed to help U.S. farmers and ranchers who have been farming or ranching 10 or fewer years. Practical Farmers of Iowa will use a portion of the funds to provide innovative forms of training.
PFI will use funds to help provide innovative types of training
"Farminars," which are live, web-based trainings, will be presented in a "Fish Bowl" format, where a beginning farmer is paired with an experienced farmer to discuss a specific topic. Experienced farmer mentors will be matched with a beginning farmer to provide guidance and education. PFI is also creating a web-based resource for beginning farmers to find land as well as for farm landowners to find beginning farmers to rent, lease or purchase their land.
Practical Farmers of Iowa has partnered with Grow Your Small Market Farm, Iowa Valley Resource Conservation and Development, and Women Food and Agriculture Network to address beginning farmers' needs. PFI and its partners will all offer a wide variety of other training, including workshops, field days and retreats, says Sally Worley, a spokesperson for PFI.
Training helps beginning farmers to network with each other
These training and information opportunities will include business planning, production techniques, adding a generation or new partner to the farm, marketing, and financing education. These events will also provide an arena for beginning farmers to network and learn from one another.
Practical Farmers of Iowa includes a diverse group of farmers and nonfarmers. 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.