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Fall is almost here and for the 4th time we are recruiting applications for the Savings Incentive Program here at Practical Farmers. Programming for Beginning Farmers has expanded dramatically in recent years and SIP is an example. The initial group who finished in 2012 were nine, the second group finishes this year with 22, the third is 24, and up to 25 will start in January in the group being recruited now.
The total is 80 Beginning Iowa Farmers (!!!) active in the Savings Incentive Program, all working toward creating viable farm businesses.
The Savings Incentive Program is an umbrella for a range of services that was outlined by our farmer members as essential to a successful farm startup. The package includes work with an experienced farm mentor, participation in Practical Farmers events, quarterly check-ins with staff, and the farm savings account of up to $100 per month for 24 months. At program completion that savings is matched by PFI $1 for $1, for a potential total of $4800 to invest in a farm asset.
Nathan Anderson, SIP 2012 from Cherokee, appreciates the diversity. “The mentorship is invaluable to any beginning farmer. There is also the savings match, the business plan support and the PFI events that expose beginners to a world of farm knowledge. That is the real benefit of the program – that it includes all those aspects that tie it together to give beginners a real leg up.”
What does the program actually consist of? It is a large collection of real people who are expressing their needs and interests by producing edibles; aka “farmers.” The result is quite an array of enterprises. Program participants grow everything from corn, beans, small grains, and hay to every vegetable possible, mushrooms, and canned goods. Livestock include beef, pork, dairy, sheep dairy, bees, lamb, cheese, eggs, chickens, ducks, turkeys, goats. We can not wait to see what joins the fun this year.
In typical Practical Farmers fashion that product mix includes a blend of styles and keywords. Conventional, organic, ridge-till, free-range, non-GMO, 3rd crop, cover crops, local, pastured, deep-bedding, hoop house, rotational grazing, whole grains, and much more. Marketing, likewise, includes it all. Farm-direct, farmers market, wholesale, on-farm, online, U-pick, CSA, retail, buying club, grocery store, health food store and co-op, value-added, halves, wholes, hanging, and by the cut. Take a step back and see that the Savings Incentive Program is a sneak peek at the future of Iowa’s farms and food system.
Family and life situation also varies. There are solo operations, formal and informal partnerships, married couples, expecting – newborns – toddlers, multi-child households, multi-teenager households, recent college grads and those about to retire. Some join PFI in order to apply, some have been members from birth. Off-farm jobs are nearly standard, as is the desire to eliminate those jobs as soon as possible. Some are saddled with student, farm, and land debt, others are committed to getting established without any debt. Some recently returned to Iowa after many years away, others have never left.
Who do you know that should join this melting pot and benefit from two years of direct support from Practical Farmers of Iowa? What organizations do you belong to that could help spread the word? Join us in the fun of supporting the next generation of Iowa farmers by helping us recruit the next group of SIPpers. We are accepting applications for the Savings Incentive Program until October 4th. The new group will be selected by a committee of PFI members, notified in early November, and will formally start the program in January 2014.