Beginning Farmer Program Gets $128,000 Grant

Beginning Farmer Program Gets $128,000 Grant

Last week the Practical Farmers of Iowa organization received a $128,000 federal grant, to help fund PFI's beginning farmer program, which helps ensure that each new farmer will have a solid business plan.

Practical Farmers of Iowa has been awarded a $128,800 "Assets for Independence" (AFI) grant by the Administration for Children and Families, Office of Community Services within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. With the addition of the AFI grant, Practical Farmers has now raised more than $290,000 from more than 100 individuals and businesses for the PFI Savings Incentive Program, which is $40,000 above its goal of $250,000.

 These funds will help the 27-year-old nonprofit, sustainable-agriculture organization to implement a program designed to assist beginning farmers to make a living on the land. The Savings Incentive Program works by encouraging beginning farmers to save approximately $100 each month for two years. After two years and completing all program requirements, beginning farmers' savings will be matched by Practical Farmers of Iowa so that each beginner could have up to $4,800 to put toward a farm asset such as land, machinery or livestock. During the two-year period, enrollees will create or fine-tune a business plan and participate in programming to help them create a successful farm business.

Savings Incentive Program ensures new farmers ask themselves right questions

There are approximately 500 beginning farmers within the Practical Farmers of Iowa membership. According to PFI board member Sean Skeehan, "The Savings Incentive Program exists to help new farmers create a sound business plan vetted by professionals and to give them a seasoned mentor to work with. I have heard of many energetic and optimistic new farmers with the knowledge and ability to grow crops and raise livestock who quickly stumble or fail because they lack basic business planning. The SIP ensures that new farmers ask themselves questions, test their ideas on paper and work with experienced professionals."

Beginning farmer and 2010 SIP recipient Sara Hanson, owner of Prairie Sky Farm, says "I appreciate the guidance I'm getting to create a business plan for my farm. And, I always tell other beginning farmers that if I could choose only one organization to belong to, PFI would be my first choice." 

There are many factors working against beginners like Sara. For example, high-priced farmland and low returns for their labor. The funds from the AFI grant will allow PFI to serve 100 beginning farmers through the program by 2016.

Matched savings are available with the PFI Savings Incentive Program

"The matched savings component of the Savings Incentive Program gives new farmers a great incentive to develop or strengthen a savings mentality," Skeehan adds. "At the end of the Savings Incentive Program cycle, each new farmer completing the program will have an educated and solid plan for their operation and a good chunk of money with which to make a business purchase. Contributions to the Savings Incentive Program fund from individuals, companies, foundations and government grants are the lifeblood that enables PFI to develop the next generation of farmers who will use ecologically sound and community-enhancing approaches to agriculture."

Some of the other major donors to the Savings Incentive Program are: AgVentures Alliance, the Soper Family, the Schnieder Family Foundation, G. David Hurd, the Fred and Charlotte Hubbell Foundation, and Helen D. Gunderson (in memory of her parents, Marion and Deane Gunderson). 

Founded in 1985, Practical Farmers of Iowa is an open, supportive and diverse organization of farmers and friends of farmers, advancing profitable, ecologically sound and community-enhancing approaches to agriculture through farmer-to-farmer networking, farmer-led investigation and information sharing. Farmers who belong to PFI produce corn, soybeans, beef cattle, hay, fruits, vegetables and more. For information call 515-232-5661 or visit www.practicalfarmers.org.
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