I received the following response from Leslie Pelch to my request for
beginning farmer programs:
>The Intervale Foundation here in Burlington has a farmer training/farm
>incubator program which involves at least inexpensive leased land,
>shared machinery, and regular meetings of all of the farmers (there are
>at least 5 or 6). I don't know the details beyond that, but you can
>contact Daphne Makinson at the Intervale Foundation:
>128 Intervale Rd
>Burlington, VT 05401
I contacted Daphne and she filled me in with some details. The Intervale
Foundation is regenerating a worn-out 350 acre parcel in Burlington. They
have establish a large CSA as well as an institutional CSA (hospitals,
nursing homes, etc.) In addition there are 5 independent vegetable farmers
who all went through an incubator program to begin these farms. This
included developing a business plan. For 3 years, the Foundation gives them
subsidized land rent, equipment, some inputs/supplies and access to a
greenhouse. After the 3 years expires, these farmers will then be charged
market rates and put at the bottom on the priority list for use of the
equipment, etc. These new farmers have formed a cooperative and meet
monthly with the Foundation to discuss their progress/problems.
An emerging thrust of the Foundation will be to cooperate with area land
trusts to give beginning farmers access to land.
MY THOUGHTS: Are other land trusts in the country trying to place new
farmers on their trust farmland? What I like about the 3 year-subsidized
approach is that it allows a farmer to build a track record before going on
their own. That three-year track record would be very important if the
farmer would then apply for more conventional agricultural financing. Its
somewhat revolutionary (from my background) to think of farms as something
to be "incubated" as small businesses have been for years. I don't believe
that the traditional agriculture establishment sees farming in these terms,
which often results in their efforts to assist new farmers falling short.
Also, "outside" (non-traditional ag organizations) have goals beyond (but by
no means excluding) profitability. This creates a "safer" environment to
use sustainable/organic farming practices and defining a role for farming
in the community. Any sanet comments on any of this?
As I learn more, I'll post the information to sanet.
Policy Working Group
302 Natural Resource Building
Michigan State University
East Lansing, MI 48823
Phone (517)353-3209, Ext. 3 Work