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A Common Field: A Whole Farm Management Education Program for Beginning Farmers Project Summary
A. L. Meyer , J.L. Hunter
Department of Agricultural Economics
A Common Field: A Whole Farm Management Education Program for Beginning Farmers is designed to provide a basic foundation of production, marketing, management, and networking skills that will give beginning farmers an opportunity to succeed in today challenging agricultural economy. This project is a Standard BFRDP with a focus on whole farm planning using production and management strategies, and business management and decision support strategies to enhance the long-term viability of beginning farmers.
The program will be designed as a tool that can be used for all beginning farmers. The project will focus on farmers who are completely new to the industry, as well as individuals who have some knowledge of agriculture but are first time farmers. Participants will engage in a two year program. The first sessions of the program will focus on management and planning, intertwined with production information to keep the farmers engaged. The middle sessions will focus on production skills, selected according to each individual farm plan, which will include hands-on training. The final sessions will focus on mentoring and actual implementation of the plans created in earlier sessions.
After completing the program, beginning farmers will have a basic foundation in production skills, marketing skills, and management skills on which to build their farming operation. Along with that knowledge base, the beginning farmers will also have a mentor and a network of resources to access grants, educational programs, and other resources for improvements in their operation. Each participant who completes the training program will have a proposed farm plan, along with implementation needs. This will include plans for financing, land acquisition/access and further technical training.
Finally, to encourage the producer network, a quarterly newsletter will be developed and focused specifically on beginning farmers. A sampling of topics could include: FSA and NRCS program reminders, marketing updates, recordkeeping tips, and so forth. A sub-goal of the project is institutional change after the funding is finished, we expect our comprehensive Kentucky extension system to have an enhanced ability to move beginning farmers into the category of those operating sustainably.