Are you a beginning or aspiring farmer who could benefit from a network of experienced farmers and a savings match while creating a successful farm business?
If so, don't miss the deadline to apply for Practical Farmers of Iowa's 2015-2016 Savings Incentive Program. Applications are due by Oct. 3, 2014. The two-year program pairs beginning and aspiring farmers with experienced mentors; offers business plan support and the chance to save money and receive matching funds; and provides access to numerous learning opportunities, as well as a network of farming peers. To access an application online, visit the PFI website. Or call the PFI office at 515-232-5661 to request a copy through the mail.
Number of new farmers to be admitted to program is limited
Up to 25 beginning farmers will be admitted to this fifth round of Savings Incentive Program participation. Those admitted will be part of the Class of 2016, and are selected by a committee of PFI members using an evaluation system that rewards a noticeable commitment to developing applicants' independent farming goals. Selections will be made in early November. To date, 74 beginning farmers have been or are currently active in the program.
The Savings Incentive Program works by encouraging enrollees to save up to $100 per month for two years. After 24 months and 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 toward purchasing a farm asset.
Requirements: As part of the program, participants are paired with a mentor, with whom they must meet in-person at least three times in the first year. Participants also:
* Open and manage a savings account with Practical Farmers' partner bank
* Create or fine-tune a business or whole-farm plan
* Attend at least four PFI events per year. PFI events include online trainings, field days, conferences, workshops and more
* Conduct quarterly reviews via email, phone or in-person with Practical Farmers staff to check on progress toward goals and program requirements
* Complete all forms and requested information on time
Two-year program pairs enrollees with an experienced farm mentor
"What I've gained the most from being in the Savings Incentive Program is the vast network system of support," says Janna Feldman, a current enrollee from Honey Creek in western Iowa. She raises sheep and goats. "With so much advice on various topics, I feel connected to a huge web of information. I don't have to reinvent the wheel because someone else has already been there and done that."
Karla Hanson, a past participant who raises sheep near Monona in northeast Iowa, says the program forced her to look at her farm from a new perspective. "Without the deadlines and goals required of SIP participation, I would not have moved forward with our farming plans as quickly."
For Jordan Scheibel, a 2013 graduate who grows chemical-free produce, herbs and flowers at Middle Way Farm near Grinnell, the Savings Incentive Program gave him the push he needed to start his own farm. "When I joined SIP, I was on the fence about whether I actually wanted to start my own operation. But when I took the plunge, it felt like I was supposed to actually start farming. Given my doubts, it was a really needed push to get me going."
Matt Roe, a current enrollee, says he wasn't initially looking forward to the required reviews but had a change of heart once he saw how they helped him. "They really help me recap my progress and look at the big picture," says Matt, who raises berries and nursery crops with his wife at Terraceberry Farm near Allerton. "I'm learning that it's so easy to get lost in all the to-do lists of stuff that needs to be done on a daily basis – but it's very important to take a step back and review how things are going and if I'm still headed in the same direction I set out in."
Eligibility: To be eligible, applicants must either be farming on their own now and have farmed for five or fewer years, or have some experience working for a farm business. This includes, but is not limited to: internships, apprenticeships, working as an hourly or salaried employee or working on the family farm.
Applicants must also reside in Iowa or farm in the state (out-of-state residents are eligible, so long as they are farming in Iowa), and be members of Practical Farmers of Iowa. Those who are not currently members can join at the PFI website or by calling 515-232-5661. For questions about the Savings Incentive Program or application process, contact Julie Wheelock at 515-232-5661 or [email protected].
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 in our network produce corn, soybeans, beef cattle, hay, fruits and vegetables, and more. For additional information, call 515-232-5661 or visit www.practicalfarmers.org.