AMES — Practical Farmers of Iowa has selected the seventh class of beginning farmers to enroll in its Savings Incentive Program, developed to help beginners establish viable, sustainable farm businesses. The 11 new participants in this class bring the total number of beginning farmers served by the program to 127.
The two-year program helps beginning and aspiring farmers reach their farming goals by pairing them with experienced farming mentors; providing 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.
The newly enrolled beginning farmers will be part of the Class of 2018. They come from all over the state and represent a diversity of farm enterprises, including fruits and vegetables, field crops, sheep, chickens, cattle and pigs. Nearly half of the enrollees market their crops or plan to market some crops through a CSA. Two of the farms are certified organic, and two are urban farms.
The 11 new Savings Incentive Program enrollees, listed alphabetically along with their hometowns, are:
Maren Beard – Decorah
Carmen Black – Solon
Kelly Clime – Dallas Center
Emily Fagan – Decorah
Matt Lansing – Dubuque
Emily and Nathan Paulsen – Elk Horn
Jenny Quiner – Des Moines
Bart VerEllen – Centerville
Matthew and Lori Wiese – Earlham
Tom Wilson and Taylor Williams – Nevada
Jon Yagla – Iowa City
Jenny Quiner, of Dogpatch Urban Gardens in Des Moines, says she is looking forward to working with a farm mentor. “As a beginning farmer, I recognize that I have so much to learn. The opportunity to have a farmer mentor is invaluable. I don’t have a background in farming, so I’m constantly trying to grow my network of farmers – especially those with similar growing philosophies.”
Tom Wilson and Taylor Williams of Remnant Hills Farm, near Nevada, Iowa, raise vegetables, flowers and pasture-based livestock and say they applied to the Savings Incentive Program “to gain access to the PFI network and all its resources, and to build relationships with a mentor and other experienced farmers.”
Another major component of the program includes support for building and maintaining a business plan. Many beginners realize the need for an up-to-date business plan, but are unsure where to begin if they lack a plan or how to tell if their existing plan is adequate.
“I look forward to having guidance analyzing my business plan,” Jenny says. “Now that I’m finishing my first season of farming, I know it could use some adjusting.” Through SIP, enrollees are given business planning resources and opportunities to meet with business plan reviewers for personalized feedback.
In addition to the mentorship and business plan guidance, the savings match that enrollees receive if they successfully complete the program will make it possible for many to take the next step toward achieving their farm goals.
The savings aspect of 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 toward the purchase of a farm asset. Jenny, Tom and Taylor all hope to use their savings match to help purchase a tractor.
Practical Farmers will open applications for an eighth round of the Savings Incentive Program next fall. The Savings Incentive Program is part of Practical Farmers’ 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 the USDA Farm Service Agency, Natural Resources Conservation Service, Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture, National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, Clif Bar Foundation, Farm Aid and individual donations to Practical Farmers’ beginning farmer program.
To learn more about the Savings Incentive Program and the 11 new enrollees, visit http://practicalfarmers.org/member-priorities/beginning-farmers/savings-incentive-program/