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Small Farms

Family Farm Forum

NIFA organized a series of five Family Farm Forums from 2008 until 2010, focusing on key issues for family farms.  Each forum consisted of an Update, an electronic document that described research and outreach on a particular issue, followed by a Web-based seminar, or webinar, that promoted discussion and networking among agency partners. Webinars also highlighted successful programs, identified relevant funding opportunities, and supported research, teaching, and outreach activities that focus on America’s family farms and ranches.  Iowa State University Extension hosted these webinars

Farm Transitions-Exit, Entry, and Planning

The average age of farm and ranch operators has increased steadily for decades. There is concern that insufficient replenishment by younger operators may have a devastating effect on the nation’s family farms.
 
The Farm Transitions Update includes articles on succession and estate planning. Articles emphasize the problems of minority populations and approaches to solving these problems; how similar issues that face many of the nearly 11 million private woodland owners may affect huge areas of forestlands; and successful ways the Iowa State Beginning Farmer Center uses to address these problems, including the Web-based National Farm Transition Network.

Nearly 80 people from the land-grant system, community-based organizations, and the private sector participated in the subsequent webinar. Agency staff and partners presented an overview of competitive funding opportunities, with equal time was devoted to questions and discussions from all participants. In addition, attendees were asked four polling questions so they could express their views on the forum’s focus. Kathy Ruhf (Land for Good) gave an overview of the newly-funded FARMLasts project and other participants provided examples of projects and materials that can aid in planning for farm transition.
 
Attendee input established that the Family Farm Forum will include all family farms and that “Local Food Systems” would be the topic of the fall forum, scheduled for October. 

Local Food Systems

The Update published in October 2008 highlights some of the main issues and successful projects related to local food systems, including an article on local marketing, by Dr. Dawn Thilmany, Colorado State University; new institutional markets for local foods, by Patricia Allen of the University of California’s Center for Agroecology and Sustainable Food Systems; and legal issues in local food sales, by Marne Coit, of the National Agricultural Law Center.

At the November 2008 webinar on Local Food Systems, over 100 people from universities, federal, and state agencies, community-based organizations and nongovernment organizations, as well as individual farmers, policymakers, and others heard presentations on funding opportunities and successful local food system projects.  Janise Zygmont, the Agricultural Marketing Service, outlined some of her agency’s programs that support local food markets.  Kansas farmer Diana Endicott described her highly successful Value Chain Business Model, developed with funding from several USDA programs.  In addition, NIFA staff gave an overview of research and outreach related to local food systems and described several relevant agency funding opportunities.  At least half of the webinar was devoted to lively Q&A sessions among attendees and presenters.  Polling questions provided valuable information on publicizing funding opportunities and topics for future webinars.

Entrepreneurship and Family Farms

The Update, published in April 2009, describes some recent research and outreach related to farm entrepreneurship, including an article on farm clusters based on a National Research Initiative-funded grant at Pennsylvania State University; a successful Spanish goat enterprise; and articles from other land-grant universities describing their entrepreneurship programs and/or services.

Over 50 people attended the webinar on May 11, 2009. Faculty from land-grant universities and Economic Research Service staff discussed their programs on entrepreneurship, business plans development, and the use of the Internet.  Staff from NIFA and USDA’s Rural Development identified several competitive funding opportunities to enhance farm entrepreneurship.  Equal time was devoted to questions and discussions from all participants and attendees were polled for their views on the forum and the next webinar topic. 

Socio-economic Issues in Small and Mid-sized Animal Operations

The Update newsletter, published in October 2009, focused on key production and marketing issues for sustainable, small and mid-sized animal operations, including an article on pork production by Dr. Donald Levis, University of Nebraska, and on a beef forage system in Appalachia by Dr. Jim Neel, Agricultural Research Service.  Other articles included information on the use of Mobile Processing Units in the North west by Dr. Marcia Ostrom, and an overview of the National Animal Identification System by Dr. Richard Reynnells.  The subsequent webinar in November 2009 brought together a wide range of people from universities, Extension, and community-based organizations who discussed some of these issues in greater depth. NIFA staff also gave an overview of research and outreach related to small and mid-sized animal production systems including relevant agency funding opportunities.  At least half of the webinar was devoted to lively Q&A sessions among attendees and presenters.  Polling questions provided valuable information on publicizing funding opportunities and topics for future webinars.

Agriculture of the Middle

The Family Farm Forum Update newsletter, published in April 2010, describes the fundamental issues and recent research related to the topic Agriculture of the Middle. This newsletter also highlights funding opportunities related to the topic.  Over 40 people attended a webinar on May 26.  Unfortunately, problems with the sound system limited the time available for general discussion.  The webinar can be replayed in its entirety and the complete set of webinar slides is also available for downloading.

 

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