New Farmers Given Resources Needed to Succeed
Jennifer Martin, CSREES Staff (202) 720-8188
By Stacy Kish, CSREES Staff
February 28, 2008
The future of Northeast agriculture depends on the next generations of farmers. However, success is hard to achieve as the next generation is faced with unprecedented challenges. The Growing New Farmers (GNF) project established a consortium that supports new farmers in 12 Northeast states-from Maine to West Virginia.
Kathyrn Ruhf and her colleagues at the New England Small Farm Institute raised awareness among service providers by creating programs, products, tools and resources, producing research, promoting supportive public policies and building professional skills. New farmers and service providers can obtain information from the project's Web site. The project's activities address major barriers faced by new farmers in the areas of land access, markets, capital and credit, and knowledge and technical assistance.
The project helps prospective and developing farmers find resources targeted to their needs to help them succeed. This consortium project generated a strong sense of community. The Web site continues to serve as a "resource portal" with over 3,000 visits per month.
The GNF project is the only regional initiative in the United States that provides a professional support network for new farmers. Nearly 200 organizations and agencies in the 12 Northeast states joined the GNF Consortium. Eighty-four percent of the participating organizations and agencies reported that they continue to use the GNF Web site and resources to help their new farmer clients. Resource available include a workbook for selecting market outlets, a decision-making tool for farm start-ups, a learning guide for record keeping, a policy toolkit, a study on financial resources and a CD clearinghouse of materials for new farmers.
Project leaders categorized new farmers by developing a typology to reflect the wide range of diversity in this audience. Workbooks, guides, Web sites, brochures, farmer training programs, targeted lending programs and courses were developed to match each group's learning needs and preferences. In addition, GNF produced a report that highlights the factors barring new farmers from financial aid and land access. GNF also developed a policy tool kit to better translate public policy issues to develop supportive policies for new farmers.
The USDA's Cooperative State Research, Education, and Extension Service (CSREES) funded this research project through the Initiative for Future Agricultural and Food Systems (IFAFS) program. CSREES advances knowledge for agriculture, the environment, human health and well-being, and communities by supporting research, education and extension programs in the Land-Grant University System and other partner organizations. For more information, visit www.csrees.usda.gov.