tractor in field
GROWING NEW FARMERS: The two-year program pairs beginning farmers with a farming mentor and helps with writing a business plan.

New class ready for Savings Incentive Program

Practical Farmers of Iowa admits eighth class of beginning farmers.

Practical Farmers of Iowa has selected the eighth class of beginning farmers to enroll in its Savings Incentive Program, developed to help beginners establish viable, sustainable farm businesses.

The class’s 11 participants bring the total number of beginning farmers served by the program to 139.

The two-year program helps beginning and aspiring farmers reach their farming goals by pairing them with experienced farming mentors. It provides targeted learning opportunities, offering business planning support and guidance, and giving participants the chance to save money and receive matching funds while learning how to build a profitable farm.

Class of 2019’s diverse enterprises
The new group of farmers makes up the Class of 2019 and represents a diversity of farm enterprises, including fruits and vegetables, row crops, goats, lamb, cattle, hogs and poultry, as well as value-added products, such as Christmas wreathes and baked goods.

All the farms are diversified with more than one enterprise. The farmers use a variety of production practices. A few farms are certified organic, and several more are planning to be. Some use multispecies and rotational grazing, among other practices. The 11 enrollees, listed with their hometowns, are:

1. Andy and Betsy Boone, Lorimor
2. Whitney Brewer, Johnston
3. Garin and Kristten Buttermore, Ogden
4. Brandon and Margo Friedlein, Guttenberg
5. Heath Hoppes, Council Bluffs
6. Jason and Angela Johnson, Derby
7. Innocent Kabahizi and Marie Kashindi, West Des Moines
8. Jake Kundert and Bridget Fonseca, Solon
9. Alan and Andrea Spencer, Stanton
10. Matthew and Donna Swanson, Story City
11. Mark and Theresa Westbrock, Waverly

Many of the farmers mention the mentorship component of the program as a main driver for their participation. “The most exciting aspect of the Savings Incentive Program, or SIP, is the opportunity to work with a mentor who can help guide my new farm in the right direction,” says Mark Westbrock. “I’m in SIP to increase my chances of success as a new farmer.”

Mark and wife Theresa are launching Solstice Farm this year, where they’ll raise pastured poultry, eggs, hogs and a fruit orchard.

Mentors help guide beginners
Brandon and Margo Friedlein, of Friedlein Produce near Guttenberg, raise pumpkins, tomatoes and peppers, and have a young apple orchard. They shared a similar sentiment about the benefits of working with a mentor who can help them expand and improve their operation: “We want to make sure we are doing the right things to be profitable, and provide our customers with a good product and an enjoyable purchasing experience.”

Along with mentorship guidance, participants are given business planning resources and opportunities to meet with business plan reviewers for personalized feedback. Structured program requirements encourage the beginning farmers to build or maintain an up-to-date business plan, an important component for any small business.

The savings aspect of the program works by encouraging enrollees to save up to $100 per month for two years. Upon completing all program requirements, participants will earn a dollar-for-dollar match on money saved up to $2,400 for a possible $4,800 to use toward the purchase of a farm asset. The Friedleins plan to use their savings match for a tractor, eliminating the need to borrow equipment in the future, and the Westbrocks plan to either put their money toward a deer fence or a livestock trailer.

Apply for next round of SIP
Practical Farmers will open applications for a ninth round of the Savings Incentive Program next fall. This is part of PFI’s beginning farmer programming, which helps more than 1,600 beginning farmers in Iowa and surrounding states network with and learn from each other and experienced farmers through field days, farminars, workshops, retreats and other events.

The program is made possible through contributions by USDA, the Clif Bar Foundation, Farm Aid and individual donations to PFI’s beginning farmer program. To learn more about SIP and the 11 new enrollees, visit PFI.

Source: Practical Farmers of Iowa

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