Iowa Beginning Farmer Center is expanding programs

Iowa Beginning Farmer Center is expanding programs

ISU Beginning Farmer Center is boosting efforts to help next generation of farmers get started.

Iowa State University Extension and Outreach (ISUEO) established the Beginning Farmer Center (BFC) to assist young people who want to start farming and existing farmers who wish to transition their businesses to the next generation.

To get a start in farming young people need access to land, livestock and machinery. Existing farmers who are nearing retirement can make these assets available through lease, sale, trade or gift, rather than simply liquidating their businesses. The number of farmers ready to shift responsibility to the next generation is increasing. As part of a USDA grant, ISUEO is stepping up its efforts to facilitate farm business transitions.

FARM SUCCESSION: Iowa State University’s Beginning Farmer Center is adding new programs, reaching out to young farmers and stepping up efforts to assist older, established farmers in transitioning their businesses to help next generation get started farming.

Programs for beginners; “Start-to-Farm” learning groups

The BFC is coordinating “Start-to-Farm” peer learning groups for young farmers across the state. These groups will receive in-depth exposure to production and marketing topics of their choosing, as well as learn how to develop financial statements and use them to make business decisions and secure credit.

The Beginning Farmer Center also founded and supports the Beginning Farmer Network, a club for ISU students planning a career in farming. The club meets monthly, and schedules speakers and events to help them realize their goals. The Center also is partnering with Veterans in Agriculture, a nonprofit organization that reaches out to Iowa veterans interested in a career in farming.

A new short course, “From the Ground up: Creating a Plan to Grow Your Farm Business,” will be offered beginning in January 2017.  It will focus on identifying strategies for new or aspiring operators to meet their farming goals. Participants will develop a written farm business plan to share with lenders and family members. The eight-part course will meet weekly at various locations across the state.

Programs for established farmers, to help them plan for future

ISU also helps established farmers plan for the future, in particular those who have yet to determine what will happen to their farming operations as they approach retirement. The Beginning Farmer Center and the International Farm Transition Network are building a network of trained farm transition facilitators from both the public and private sectors. These professionals will assist farmers in farm succession planning, communication and implementation. 

“Farm Transitions: Preserving Your Legacy” is a new electronic newsletter for farmers who want to learn more about farm succession planning and implementation. Each quarterly issue will contain articles about transferring the farm business, making the farm transition work, farm business arrangements and estate planning for farmers. Anyone who wishes to receive this free newsletter can go to on their computer Internet browser and provide their email address. It will not be used for any other purpose.

Programs offered for both beginning and established farmers

Ag Link is a service to help preserve family farm businesses by matching beginning farmers who do not have access to land, machinery or livestock with retiring farmers who want to continue their family farm business but do not have an identified successor. Ag Link maintains an electronic data base of both aspiring and retiring farmers, and will provide assistance in identifying matches and developing joint business arrangements.

“Returning to the Farm” is a four-day seminar offered on the Iowa State University campus for farm families with an identified successor. Topics focus on how to smoothly bring a younger member into the farming operation. The BFC will also partner with other post-secondary schools and Extension specialists throughout the state to deliver this seminar.

Additional assistance with farm transition planning is available from the Beginning Farmer Center at 10861 Douglas Avenue in Urbandale, Iowa. For more information see their website at or call 877-232-1999. Also, you can visit the Beginning Farmer Center exhibit at the 2016 Farm Progress Show, Aug. 30-Sept. 1 at Boone in central Iowa.

William Edwards is a professor emeritus in the department of economics at Iowa State University and a long-time member of the Timely Tips panel, a farm management Question & Answer column in Wallaces Farmer magazine.

For farm management information and analysis visit ISU's Ag Decision Maker site; ISU Extension farm management specialist Steve Johnson's site is at

TAGS: USDA Extension
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