Farm Beginnings is emerging as the most effective way to increase the number of beginning farmers who are building food and farm economies that are green, fair, and healthy.
Farm Beginnings is recognized as “a model that is creating strong new farm businesses across the country” by Kathleen Merrigan then U.S. Deputy Secretary of Agriculture (in her 2012 remarks to the Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program directors).
Our farmer training is unique in that it is farmer-led, community based, and focused on sustainable agriculture.
Farm Beginnings is a yearlong program that incorporates a nine-seminar farm business-planning course, a series of on-farm field day workshops, and one-on-one mentoring from area farmers. The program is embedded in a network of farmers and supported by a community of stakeholders that include bankers, business people, extension agents, investors, philanthropists and more. Creating this social infrastructure is intentional and a precursor to launching new programs, as it bolsters outcomes and plans for program sustainability.
The Farm Beginnings Collaborative (FBC) is the national alliance of regional groups who are offering Farm Beginnings programs. The Collaborative is growing and now includes ten organizations with programs serving beginning farmers in 13 states. For the full list of organizations, see the homepage.
The Farm Beginnings Collaborative has developed a set of indicators to track outputs and outcomes across all its member organizations. Farm Beginnings programs have graduated hundreds of farmers, and of those who responded to our 2015 graduate survey, 80% are farming. The model is adaptable to diverse regions and constituencies.
When all 50 states have access to at least one Farm Beginnings program, we will have developed the capacity to train more than 1,000 beginning farmers into new farm businesses each year.
Brief history of the Farm Beginnings Collaborative:
The Farm Beginnings Collaborative (FBC) is a national alliance of independent regional groups of farmers, farmer networks, and farmer-training support organizations, which are working together to promote Farm Beginnings, a beginning farmer training model that is farmer-led, community based, and focused on sustainable agriculture.
The long-term goal of the Farm Beginnings Collaborative (FBC) is to expand the use of farmer-to-farmer training models as a proven approach for increasing the number of farmers producing food for local and regional food systems.
In 1996, Farm Beginnings (FB) was started by the Minnesota-based Land Stewardship Project (LSP) and its farmer members to create a training and support program that could help new farmers tap into emerging opportunities in agriculture like organic dairy, Community Supported Agriculture, grass-fed beef and other growing markets in the emerging local foods movement. Farm Beginnings is a year-long program that helps beginning farmers develop holistic business plans, network with peers, and learn from experienced farmer-presenters.
LSP shared the Farm Beginnings curriculum with other farmer training peers, and Farm Beginnings is now a licensed program in which all partners trained to offer the course become members of the Farm Beginnings Collaborative (FBC).