Building Institutional Support to Increase Farm Viability of Indiana’s Beginning Farmers

Progress report for ENC21-199

Project Type: Professional Development Program
Funds awarded in 2021: $89,046.00
Projected End Date: 09/30/2024
Grant Recipient: Purdue University
Region: North Central
State: Indiana
Project Coordinator:
Amy Thompson
Purdue Extension
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Project Information


In Indiana, more than 23,000 farmers self-identified as being a beginning farmer, having less than 10 years experience producing food, feed, fuel and/or fiber. These farmers are found in rural and urban areas, can be young or old, and often use a myriad of production systems. Because beginning farmers come from diverse backgrounds and oftentimes farm in non-traditional ways, it has been challenging for them to find resources from national, state, and local organizations. Also, available resources are often non-existent since few farmers were entering the field prior to 10 years ago and most resources were developed to meet the needs of traditional corn and soybean growers. As such, many beginning farmers lack the necessary production and financial tools to be able to maintain viable farming businesses. The intended target audience for this project will be agriculture professionals from local, state and national organizations that are working to increase farm viability of Indiana beginning farmers. The outcomes from this project will be to develop a robust and dynamic cross agency program that will increase the capacity of beginning farmers to be successful. Specific outcomes are a beginning farmer certification program, improved farm viability metrics on participating beginning farms and increased networking among all stakeholders. Activities will include diversity, equity and inclusion workshops, a workbook with checklist to support organizations supporting beginning farmers, webpage updates, video content for the certification program, farm tours to participating beginning farms, out of state field trip, and regular meetings with local, state and national organizations.

Project Objectives:

Outputs include a Beginning Farmer Certification Program aimed at increasing the capacity of agriculture professionals. Within this program, materials will be developed such as videos, flow charts, checklists, and a workbook. These materials will be specific for agriculture professionals and included in the onboarding process of new hires. A coordinated webpage will also be an output with links to external agencies and other content that is beneficial to BFRs and agriculture professionals working with BFRs. A video library will be produced based on videos that have already been taken and new footage to complement previous recordings. These videos will be useful to agriculture professionals working with BFRs and in particular new hires who are learning about how to support BFRs. Information and knowledge will be generated and utilized by agriculture professionals to improve outreach to BFR stakeholders and increase the viability of their farms. Additionally, collaboration will be increased between local, state, and national agencies, with a renewed understanding of how each organization serves BFRs in the state.


Specific target outputs:

  • At least 40 agriculture professionals will participate in the certification program
  • At least 40 agriculture professionals will participate in the DEI workshop
  • More than 100 agriculture professionals will attend the farm tours
  • More than 10 BFRs will participate in the out of state field trip
  • More than 10 agriculture professionals will participate in the out of state field trip
  • BFR materials, such as checklists and flow charts, will be available in local, state, and national offices
  • Webpages among the key partners will be linked and coordinated with information on how each organization supports BFRs
  • Video library will be available to all newly hired employees of key partners and they will be made aware of them during their onboarding process
  • 6 biannual meetings will be conducted between the key partners and BFRs
  • 10 in state BFR farm tours will be conducted
  • 10 BFR farmer panels will be delivered
  • One out of state multi-day field trip will be conducted to BFR farms and successful programs

The objectives for the grant will not be modified but the timeline will have to shift.  The PI for the project left Purdue University mid-2022, one of the key personnel also left the university and an addtional team member went on extended medical leave.  


Click linked name(s) to expand/collapse or show everyone's info
  • Amy Thompson
  • James Wolff
  • Brooke Alford
  • Sara Dzimianski
  • Jill Reinhart


Educational approach:

The development of the Beginning Farmer certification program for this project has been delayed due to personnel changes and medical leave of key personnel involved in the grant. 

Draft curricula has been developed but is still being refined and is not yet ready for publication. In Spring of 2023 the curricula will be finalized and the certification program will be offered in late summer/fall of 2023 and into 2024. The curricula for the certification program will provide agency personnel with a greater understanding of the characteristics of beginning farmers, including their demographics, educational background and challenges. The certification program will then cover profiles of the various agencies and their role in supporting beginning farmers, these profiles and the interaction among agencies will give agricultural professionals a better understanding of how agencies support different aspects of a farming operation and the personnel involved and will helpfully assist in alleviating overlap and confusion. The certification program will then offer profiles of Indiana farmers and how and where they obtained assistance and support as they worked to ensure that their operation would be viable. Flowcharts, checklists, videos and other supporting materials will be shared both prior to and as part of the certification program. Following the delivery of the curricula the participants will visit an operation of a beginning farmer/rancher to learn what has been implemented and evaluate how agency coordination could have been improved. 

For fall 2022 since the full curriculum was not available we offered educational opportunities to agricultural professional working with beginning farmers through three classroom/field day events where they learned about some of the challenges facing beginning farmers, were able

Education & Outreach Initiatives

Working with Beginning Farmers - Soil Health

Agricultural professionals will learn about key resources to assist beginning, small-scale vegetable crop producers to implement
conservation cropping practices. Interagency networking and interaction will increase understanding of support offered through the various cooperators


Agricultural professionals spent the day learning about soil health resources and agency programs which are in place to support soil health.  The day included opportunities for agency personnel from NRCS, SWCDs, Extension and NGOs to interact and gain greater understanding of where increased cooperation is needed.  The afternoon tour included a visit to the operation of a beginning farmer and examples of programs/support efforts he had put into place. 

Outcomes and impacts:

about key resources to assist beginning, small-scale vegetable crop producers to implement

conservation cropping practices. We will delve into crop rotations with cover crops and reduced tillage

management strategies, and cover crop species selection and termination methods in vegetable systems.

Tour Maple Hill Farm and learn from Elliot and Margaret Dale about their approach to soil health, and

how their practices have evolved over time. Learn how they bring a new piece of land into crop production with

cover crops and rotational grazing. See low-till methods of bed preparation and management.

Farm Finances for Beginnning Farmers

Increase the understanding of agricultural professionals regarding needs of farmers for financial management skills and knowledge.


Farm Viability & Finances Crash Course - Sept 2022

Agricultural professionals were provided with an overview of what is required to make a farm viable - including business plans, markets, keeping financial records, etc. 

Outcomes and impacts:

This field day included a mix of farmers and agricultural professionals to facilitate increase discussion regarding farm vaiablity.  The event included a classroom portion where Farm viablity was discussed including financial viabiliity, environmental vaiablity as well as community viability.  Discussion took place on where farmers can get support, from which agency (or NGO) to support these efforts toward viablity.  Following the classroom session a farm tour was conducted which highlighted where challenges to vaiblity were occuring and where successes were also occuring.  Participants will provided will a number of learning resources including the following:  

Youtube series / Webinars:

Free Handouts to Download:

Template Enterprise Budgets:

Agricultural professional who attended the event listed the following as things they had learned as a result of their attendance: 

Info to build a decision tree for looking at funding
Sharing worksheet with farmers
More opportunities fo farmer-to-farmer convo's about processes and $
Connecting with Farm Credit for more info
Linker of groups
Breeder of chickens and pigs
Do a plan and be prepared
Chicken and hog operations and how to serve those customers
USDA has facility loans
Encouraged those who are intered in or want to farm can be done on a few acres
Better Spreadsheets
How to grow my business for the future. I know who can contact for more questions
Record keeping!
Alternative farm practices
I need to do a better job at keeping a budget
Communication (storytelling) makes for effective marketing to customers AND ag professionals (get good at telling your story)
Working with Beginning Farmers and Ranchers - Raising Poultry on Pasture

Increase the understanding of agricultural professionals regarding needs of beginning farmers raising livestock, specifically poultry on pasture


Following the model of the previous field day an event was organized for agricultural professionals to learn about challenges and opportunities for beginning farmers who want to raise poultry on pasture.  

Outcomes and impacts:

The classroom portion of the day included information on equipping agricultural professionals with basic information to allow them to be able to talk with beginning farmers/ranchers about raising/starting poultry.  Topics covered included: 

  • Why beginning farmers/ranchers are raising poultry on pasture
  • Breeds
  • brooders and mobile shelters
  • feed, water and supplements
  • human treatment,
  • heat management,
  • predator control
  • processing/egg licenses
  • marketing 
  • enterprise budgets
  • understanding markets/outlets 
  • establishing pasture for poultry 

following the classroom portion of the program there was a tour of a pasture poultry operation. 

Ag professionals attending indicated they had a better understanding of several things following the program:

  • infrastructure needed for successful poultry operation
  • NRCS grazing assistance available
  • required licenses/marketing challenges. 

Educational & Outreach Activities

1 Curricula, factsheets or educational tools
3 Workshop field days

Participation Summary:

9 Extension
1 Nonprofit
7 Agency
18 Farmers/ranchers

Learning Outcomes

43 Participants gained or increased knowledge, skills and/or attitudes about sustainable agriculture topics, practices, strategies, approaches
39 Ag professionals intend to use knowledge, attitudes, skills and/or awareness learned

Project Outcomes

Project outcomes:

The first biannual meeting between partners and beginning farmers resulted in identifying needs and assets that each partner brings to the table. We will build off of this outcome to create linkages on webpages and materials for agriculture professionals to better serve beginning farmers across the state. There is a need to determine what has already been produced or developed and where gaps are in our training and support for the diversity of farmers that are getting into farming.


18 Farmers reached through participant's programs
Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture or SARE.