Practical Farmers of Iowa has selected 26 beginning farmers to enroll into its Savings Incentive Program. This is the fifth year applicants have been accepted into the program, bringing the total number of beginning farmers being served to 106.
The two-year program pairs beginning and aspiring farmers with experienced mentors; provides targeted learning opportunities; offers business planning support and guidance; and gives participants the chance to save money and receive matching funds while learning how to build a profitable farm.
The new enrollees, who will be in the Savings Incentive Program from January 2015 through December 2016, represent a diverse mix of farm enterprises and locations in Iowa. Nearly half raise livestock of some kind, from cattle to pastured pork and poultry – and most intend to add livestock in the future. Five grow or plan to add row crops; over half have horticulture operations; and most enrollees currently run or desire to add multiple enterprises to their farms.
A wide range of enterprises represented by this group
Enterprises range from adding small grains and hay, to raising rabbits and sheep, to specializing in cut flowers and trees. One beginner wants to start an orchard, and several participants hope to add bees to their farms. In addition, six enrollees are refugee farmers working with Lutheran Services in Iowa's Global Greens program, including four from Burundi, one from Rwanda and one from Burma.
The 26 new Savings Incentive program enrollees, listed alphabetically, and the towns they are from: Benjamin Barron, Jefferson; Charles Bizimana, Des Moines; William and Stacey Borrenpohl, LaMotte; Hannah Breckbill, Decorah; Alex Congera, Des Moines; Jack Davis, Adel; Jennie Erwin, LeMars; Andrew Friend, Story City; Carl Glanzman and Doris Bane, Oakland; Marty Grimm, Decorah; Etiene Hacimana, Des Moines; Angelique Hakuzimana, Des Moines; Aidan Hamilton, Thornton; Jerret Horn, Newton; Eve Iversen, Story City; Laura Jones, Wilton; Lindsay and Travis Kaiser, Waverly; Karen Koenig, Hampton; Kayla Koether and Landon Corlett, Decorah; Adam Ledvina, Toledo; Greg Lipes, West Branch; Kate Mendenhall, Spirit Lake; Ta Kaw Paw, Des Moines; Bucumi Simon, Des Moines; Travis Voss, Solon; Donna Warhover, Mount Vernon.
Program helps recipients develop a strong business plan
Kate Mendenhall is an aspiring farmer who recently moved back to her hometown of Spirit Lake after working for a non-profit farming organization in New York. She hopes to start a diversified, organic livestock farm and says she applied to the Savings Incentive Program to get help developing a strong business plan.
"I'm hoping to start my own business as soon as I can find land, and starting with a strong business plan is essential for success – but it's kind of daunting to do that," Kate says. "The Savings Incentive Program offers that support and guidance: making sure you follow through on getting your business plan done, answering questions when you have them, working with a mentor. This program will give me the extra knowledge and support to help me manage my business successfully."
Mentoring aspect of program appeals to beginning farmers
Aidan Hamilton recently started his farm, Aroha Acres, raising heritage pork near Thornton. Originally from New Zealand, he wants to scale up to farm full-time by expanding his operation to include pastured poultry and sheep, as well as honeybees, based on the principles of permaculture. He says accessing the rich knowledge base of PFI members is one of the main reasons he applied to the Savings Incentive Program.
"One of the biggest benefits, even more than the financial incentives, is the mentorship aspect," Aidan says. "I'm not from this country, and there's a huge knowledge gap I'm trying to fill. PFI's core is in its member farmers, and I'm hoping I can draw on this to learn about alternative styles of farming and business planning."
Incentive program encourages enrollees to save and network
The Savings Incentive Program works by encouraging enrollees to save up to $100 per month for two years. Upon completion of 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 towards the purchase of a farm asset. The program is part of Practical Farmers' Next Generation Program, which helps more than 1,500 beginning farmers in Iowa and surrounding states network and learn from each other and experienced farmers through field days, farminars, workshops, retreats and other events. Practical Farmers will open applications for a sixth round of participants next fall.
The Savings Incentive Program is made possible through contributions by many PFI members and supporters, USDA's Rural Development Agency, the Cedar Tree Foundation and an Assets for Independence grant from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Founded in 1985, PFI is an open, supportive and diverse organization of farmers and friends of farmers that seeks to strengthen farms and communities through farmer-led investigation and information-sharing. Farmers in PFI's network produce corn, soybeans, beef cattle, hay, fruits and vegetables and more. For more details call (515) 232-5661 or visit the PFI website.