New Entry Sustainable Farming Project transitioning farmer program

Final Report for LNE05-223

Project Type: Research and Education
Funds awarded in 2005: $133,468.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2008
Region: Northeast
State: Massachusetts
Project Leader:
Jennifer Hashley
Trustees of Tufts College / New Entry Sustainable Farming Project
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Project Information

Summary:

Over the project period, 53 growers enrolled in the Transitioning Farmer Program and made transitioning farmer plans, 24 growers were assisted in identifying farmland, 29 growers were assisted to assess farmland suitability, eight growers made site improvements to farmland and infrastructure and eight farming families or individual growers transitioned to independence. New Entry created a post-harvest handling, cooling and product storage facility that served 21 growers and helped coordinate a farmer marketing cooperative that accessed seven wholesale outlets, four farmers markets and a CSA which grew to 100 members by 2008. The marketing cooperative generated $128,000 of revenue over the project period for 26 growers who participated through sales to the coop. New Entry also created three satellite post-harvest washing stations that served over seven growers. Between the project years of 2006-2008, 40 farmers attended over 35 introductory and advanced workshops, on-farm trainings, conferences and visits to other farms. Farmers received a total of over 2,700 hours of one-on-one technical assistance throughout the course of New Entry’s Transitioning Farmer Project.

Introduction:

The New Entry Sustainable Farming Project (New Entry) was started in 1998 to assist recent immigrants with farming experience to develop successful farming enterprises in Massachusetts. Most of the farmers who worked with New Entry during its (and their) formative years farmed on land rented from the Project. Growers depended on project land and services to operate. It was clear that the farmers could produce food, yet it was the greater mission of New Entry to help them achieve incremental independence from the project’s land, programs, and services. To help these farmers transition to independence, New Entry posited that, with a structured and defined process of transition, farmers could learn to operate independently of the project within three years, and that the New Entry training sites could be used to teach and cycle through additional/ incoming beginning farmers on a three year rotational basis.

Using SARE funds, New Entry initiated a Transitioning Farmer Program to help beginning farmers start, develop and transition their agricultural businesses to independence over the course of three years with integrated support. New Entry project participants were introduced to a four-year program with tracks in classroom instruction, field-based practical skills trainings and outside workshops, and intensive technical assistance. The participants cycled through a four-year series of classes, New Entry-led workshops, other trainings and received thousands of hours of technical assistance.

Performance Target:

Of 40 immigrant farmers who graduate from our initial training courses between 2004-2006, (NOTE: for our purposes, we view the project period from 2005-2008 – see explanation below), 20-25 will participate in a three-year Transitioning Farmer Program to develop sustainable farming enterprises. Of these, eight to ten will achieve independent farm operations, and another eight to ten will make significant progress towards achieving viable farm operations.

New Entry was unable to begin utilizing the funds awarded by this grant until the beginning of 2006 due to hiring constraints. A Technical Assistance Coordinator was hired in February 2006 to begin SARE-funded job responsibilities after a ten-month hiring process. The New Entry timeline for SARE related project goals was one full year behind in the usage of funds and in project implementation. Please take the timeline change into consideration when reading through this report. SARE funds reflected a three year grant which was originally slated for implementation between 2005-2007, but the timeline shifted to reflect years 2006-2008. The project received a no-cost extension to complete the scope of work.

Between the year 2005 and 2007, 28 farmers graduated the initial training course instead of the projected 40. New Entry expected more farmers to graduate the initial training course during these years based on the high numbers of enrolees in previous years. It became more and more difficult to recruit and enroll immigrants and refugees into our programs. Some reasons for the declining trend may include a reduction in people immigrating to the US after the 9/11 attacks, and competition from other immigrant farming projects in other parts of Massachusetts. As noted later in this report, New Entry increased intake opportunities for program participation and changed the parameters for our target population to be served to increase overall intake for the transitioning farmer program during 2007 and 2008.

New Entry initiated its formal farmer training course in 2003-2004, and in 2006, graduates from all three years of the training course (2004, 2005, and 2006) were invited to enroll in the Transitioning Farmer Program funded by SARE. In 2006, 19 farmers enrolled in the three year Transitioning Farmer Program. In 2007, there were an additional nine farmers enrolled in the Transitioning Farmer Program. In total, between the years of 2006 and 2007 there were 28 farmers enrolled in the Transitioning Farmer Program.

Of the 28 farmers enrolled in the Transitioning Farmer Program by 2007, eight farmers went on to achieve independent farm operations. The performance target for this grant was met but the farmers with independent operations still occasionally depend on New Entry services like custom tractor work and organic pesticide recommendations. The farmers are considered independent despite their additional needs because they were able to manage the day-to-day operations of their businesses independent of in-depth project assistance and reliance on shared services provided through training farms. The farmers occasionally needed help monitoring pests and would seek technical assistance from New Entry for pesticide recommendations. All farmers who are considered independent have acquired, with the guidance of the New Entry Transitioning Farmer Program, lease agreements from independent land owners and have secured their own markets, labor, small farm equipment, and other farming materials that may have been previously supported by the project. These farmers do their own bookkeeping and manage their own farm records.

The second piece of the performance target stated that another eight to ten farmers would make significant progress towards achieving viable farm operations (which is different than making progress on transitioning farmer plans, as later noted) between the years 2005-2007. New Entry fell short in achieving this performance target, because only six farmers made progress in moving towards independent farm operations. Additionally, the six farmers who did manage to make progress towards viable farm operations did so in the short term only. Most of these farmers stopped farming after one or two seasons for various reasons. Two of the farmers moved back to their home countries of Laos and Liberia; one farmer decided that he did not have the physical capacity to sustain farm work due to health problems; two farmers decided that farming would not meet their financial goals; and one farmer (with many years of prior production experience) simply dropped out of the program after experiencing an extremely challenging first year in production at one of the training sites. Overall, all farmers in this group made the decision that farming was not for them for one reason or another. Even though each of these farmers made gains in some way during their tenure at the New Entry training sites, ultimately, the choice to cease farming was an individual and deliberate decision.

While striving to achieve the performance targets, New Entry learned that it was essential to treat each grower as a unique case study, and was mindful that the process of transitioning to independence was a distinct process for each grower. It was difficult to offer one standard transition process or protocol because every grower came to the program with varying levels of knowledge, experience, and skills. New Entry learned that intensive levels of technical assistance and vast amounts of time were required to transition farmers from New Entry services and incubator sites to independence. In this regard and using the methods outlined below, it is difficult to achieve high numbers of independent growers each year, but it is our hope that the quality and ultimate sustainability of farmer transition will outweigh the quantity of farmer transitions over time.

Cooperators

Click linked name(s) to expand
  • McKenzie Boekholder
  • Hugh Joseph

Research

Materials and methods:

The Transitioning Farmer Program was designed for farmers to move fluidly through a series of New Entry programs over the course of three years. It was expected that during the three years of transition, farmers would gain skills, knowledge, access to land and resources, and achieve independent farm businesses. Every farmer who enrolled in the three-year Transitioning Farmer Program agreed to a transition process that encompassed training, technical assistance, and a physical transition to their own farmland tenure arrangement. Each farmer agreed to work towards being independent of in-depth Project resources or assistance. The history and progression of programs, and materials and methods employed is detailed below.

The first program offered to incoming participants was an Explore Farming! short course. The short course was facilitated by New Entry staff and was designed to help participants decide if farming as a business is right for them. The course was derived from a longer version of the New England Small Farm Institute’s Exploring the Small Farm Dream course. New Entry’s version of the Explorer short course exposed participants to agricultural opportunities in Massachusetts, introduced the concept of self-assessment, and provided an orientation to New Entry programs and services. If participants did not seem like they were ready for application to New Entry’s full-service farm business training and technical assistance program, this course helped steer them to other opportunities to be involved in agriculture, such as through on-farm employment, community gardening resources, or to help participants more fully consider the obligations inherent in continuing to pursue an agricultural career (personal, financial).

Once the Explore Farming! course was completed and individuals were ready to pursue farm business ownership, participants applied for and enrolled in the 16-week classroom- based Farmer Training Class. In the Farmer Training Class, participants learned about crop cultures, marketing, risk management, field production, greenhouse production, enterprise selection, taxes, record-keeping and many other topics specific to starting and operating a farm business. The course integrated visits to established farms and provided participants with other professional development opportunities. A consolidated curriculum and resource binder was created for purchase by program participants and others. Eventually as a result of participant feedback, the Farmer Training Class was restructured to be a shorter Farm Business Planning Course that focused on enterprise selection, marketing, record-keeping, production planning, risk management and writing a comprehensive farm business plan. The evolution of this course will be discussed in more detail later in this report.

In the first year of developing the Transitioning Farmer Program, assessments were made of each farmer enrolled in the project. The assessments were conducted as in-person interviews, where a staff person asked each farmer a series of questions read from a questionnaire. The questionnaire was designed as a needs and assets assessment and captured information such as production experience and knowledge, skill levels, language and literacy levels, physical resources, financial capacity, time availability, financial goals, production goals, marketing experience and outlets, and future farm business goals. The initial assessments were intended to be documentation of a transitioning farmer starting point; a place to capture what the farmer already knew, and what he or she needed to know before transitioning to an independent farm operation.

These initial assessments were conducted primarily with early graduates of the farm training class from 2004-2005 and proved to be of little use over time. The assessments were made with the assumption that there was an automatic level of trust between growers and staff. Since project funds needed to be utilized immediately, the staff conducting the assessments did not have adequate time to develop genuine relationships with growers beforehand. New Entry learned that in order to solicit accurate answers to the assessment questionnaire, a climate of trust needed to be cultivated between staff members and farmers first and foremost. In the future, and under the same circumstances, New Entry would take the time to cultivate relationships before assessing needs in this way. In many instances, the early participants in New Entry programs came from backgrounds that distrusted agencies of authority, specifically those that represented the government. Language barriers, past experiences and cultural differences served as primary barriers of trust between farmers and staff. Trusting relationships did eventually develop, but for the purposes of the initial assessments with a new staff person hired for this project, a trusting relationship between staff and farmers did not exist. It was not realized until much later that the information gained in the initial needs/assets assessment questionnaire was not wholly valid because farmers were hesitant to divulge personal and financial information honestly and freely. In the long run, the initial needs/assets assessments proved to be of little use.

After these initial assessments were made, information-tracking farm binders were developed by staff as a way to measure grower progress and to track the quantity and type of technical assistance provided to each grower. The binders were created as part of a Technical Assistance protocol, which went hand in hand with the Transitioning Farmer Program. Two binders were developed for use: one binder was designed for staff use; and one binder was developed for farmer use. The staff binder was used to record all one-on-one interactions with growers in a detailed and comprehensive way. There were forms developed to capture the type of interaction (ie, phone, in-person, group meeting, etc.), time spent, and content (topic) of each interaction. The staff binder was used as a means to track progression of farmer knowledge and skill development throughout the three-year transition process. One binder was also designed for farmer use, so that farmers could keep track of certain measurable categories such as pesticide use, water and irrigation use, greenhouse schedules, planting schedules, harvest and market records, field maps and production notes.

As part of the Technical Assistance protocol, it was required that farmers meet staff in their fields once per week to review one of two dozen topics on production, marketing and farm business/recordkeeping. The staff member would record the session in the staff binder, remind the farmer to update his or her binder, and make a note about further needs or proficiencies. It was theorized that growers could review their binders both during and at the end of every season in order to develop their next year’s plan about what skills and knowledge they needed to acquire. It was also theorized that growers and staff could use the binders to articulate farmer progress from year to year as knowledge and skill competency levels increased, decreased or remained the same. In theory, the information captured by the binders would have provided a constant pulse on the strengths and learning needs of farmers, and would have enabled staff to help develop growers’ competencies each year in preparation for a three year transition to independence.

The binders proved to be cumbersome and unrealistic. Staff found it difficult and inefficient to capture data in the manner required by the protocol, and very few farmers utilized the farmer binders. It may have been difficult to achieve staff and farmer buy-in because the protocols established were not created in a participatory way. The initial methods of the Transitioning Farmer Program proved to be less than ideal, but at the end of the first year, New Entry had captured enough data on each farmer through the weekly interactions during the growing season to improve and revise the Transitioning Farmer Program.

During the winter of 2007, staff re-evaluated the Farmer Training Course, the Technical Assistance Protocol, and the Transitioning Farmer Program. Using feedback from farmers, staff completely revised the Farmer Training Class. The 2006 class was 16 weeks long and covered a vast array of farm-related topics. The class was reinvented as a Farm Business Planning Course which became six weeks in duration. The Farm Business Course was offered twice per year, thereby increasing participant intake opportunities. At the end of the Farm Business Planning Course, participants completed a comprehensive Farm Business Plan and, as part of the revised Transitioning Farmer Program, could apply to rent a plot of land on one of the New Entry farm incubator sites. An Agreement to Farm and participate in the Transitioning Farmer Program was offered to graduates of the Farm Business Planning Course, and the participants became eligible to lease, for up to three seasons, a plot of land at that site, and agreed to participate in training, technical assistance, and education opportunities as part of their three year transition process. Participants also explicitly agreed that the period for which they can retain tenure on a New Entry incubator site is three years, and that the purpose of the three year incubator site tenure is to strengthen production, marketing and business skills in order to be ready for a transition to independent farmland.

When New Entry recreated and shortened its Farm Business Course, it was determined that many of the topics that were previously part of the 16-week course, were better suited for hands-on learning in the field. Therefore, with the shortened 6-week course emphasizing core business plan and crop production plan development, a Spring/Summer training series was developed to address the practical aspects of farming, and to better meet farmers’ technical needs in the field. The training series offered the following workshops: greenhouse/hoophouse management and seedling propagation; equipment repair and maintenance; farm safety; tractor safety; field preparation and layout; nutrient management; irrigation and water management; pesticide safety; post-harvest handling; disease management; weed management, and cover cropping. The workshops helped increase farmers’ knowledge and skills. The workshops offered in the early spring were the best attended. Since it is difficult for growers to travel during the growing season,
all workshops, except one cover cropping workshop, were held at the New Entry incubator farm sites.

The original Technical Assistance protocol was also changed for the 2007 growing season to better meet farmers’ needs and to help prepare project farmers for a transition to independence after three years. It was New Entry’s view that Technical Assistance would play an integral part of the Transitioning Farmer Program. New Entry learned from the first year of project implementation that it is better to meet farmers where they stand instead of imposing protocols, topics and expectations that were not expressed as needs by the farmers themselves. New Entry learned that assessing and meeting farmers’ needs should be an organic process that happens in as flexible an environment as possible. During the second year, the Technical Assistance coordinator asked farmers what they needed to learn about in order to strengthen their capacities, instead of requiring a once per week meeting to discuss a set topic with farmers in the field. The changed protocol was more participatory and also proved to be more successful. New Entry staff visited each program farmer’s field at the beginning of every week during the growing season to assess progress toward stated business goals and production plans, scout crops for pests, address overall farm management, and note areas of excellence and needs for improvement. Staff wrote a field scouting report for every grower based on observations made during the field visit. The farmer would receive one copy of this report, and a carbon copy would be used to compile a weekly field report for internal use. In the field report, staff made notes on production practices, pest pressure, disease presence and any other technical issue observed. Staff made technical recommendations to farmers in each report, and at the end of every field visit, would leave a copy of the report for the farmer to read at his or her leisure. If the farmer wanted to learn more about the issues or recommendations noted in the report, he or she was encouraged to schedule time with a staff member for in-field technical assistance. All of the growers took advantage of the technical assistance opportunities, and had to be limited to 2 hours of one-on-one time per week. Season two marked significant development in farming practices for the New Entry farmers. Farmers began using certified organic pesticides safely and correctly; farmers transitioned from conventional fertilizer to fish emulsion, compost, and granulated organic fertilizer;, and began utilizing biodegradable mulch and row cover for pest prevention. It was clear that in season two, New Entry farmers were getting the skills and information they needed in order to become more competent, and ultimately, independent growers.

During the third season of the Transitioning Farmer Program, staff continued implementing the standards and protocols that were employed during the second season. New Entry also recognized a need for distinction in services offered to growers in different years of tenure. In the third season of the Transitioning Farmer Project, growers who were on their last year of tenure at the incubator sites received less Technical Assistance than first or second year growers. Third year growers were encouraged to reassess their independent farm business goals with project staff, update their business plans, and work with New Entry to find and secure independent farmland. First and second year growers received the bulk of Technical Assistance in order to help prepare them develop their farm production and business planning skills and to better prepare them for the pending transition. Third year growers were encouraged to focus on fine-tuning their business and securing farmland with project staff.

Farmland identification was another aspect of the Transitioning Farmer Program. Staff created a farmland database that identified farmland for sale or lease in eastern and central Massachusetts. The database was first used internally; staff and project farmers had access to the database specifically as part of the Transitioning Farmer Program. New Entry compiled farmland listings for the purpose of having land available for transitioning farmers to choose from. As the program evolved, however, New Entry expanded the farmland database to a more comprehensive matching service program that included an online farmland map that could be accessed and used by anyone interested. There was a formal farmland identification and matching protocol established and the service was not only offered to Transitioning Farmer participants, but to the farming community in general.

As participants moved through the Transitioning Farmer Program, they were encouraged to review the land listings with New Entry staff, attend site visits to farmland of interest, and contribute to the process of securing the land for their farming operation. More detail about the farmland identification process is provided in the milestones portion of this report.

Research results and discussion:

Milestone 1 – From 2005-2006, 20-25 participating farmers will prepare individual Transitioning Farmer Enterprise Plans that will establish their personal objectives and indicators for establishing an independent farm enterprise within 2-3 years. These transitional enterprise plans will be reviewed with NESFP staff and partners 3 times yearly, and updated annually through 2008.

SARE funds were not used until one full year after the grant was awarded. New Entry began developing the Transitioning Farmer Program in 2006, so the following information is based on years 2006-2008.

Between the years 2006 and 2008, staff met with 28 farmers to enroll them in the new Transitioning Farmer Program. The program was explained to the farmers as a three-year transition process, where farmers would state farm business goals, skills and knowledge goals, and work with New Entry to achieve these goals. On paper, 28 farmers articulated their farm business goals and agreed to work with New Entry over three seasons, attending New Entry workshops, and strengthening skills and knowledge in order to meet their goals. The initial meetings took place in the winter of 2006, and the farmers goals were to be revisited during the middle of the growing season and at the season’s end. The idea was that farmers could define what they needed to learn during the transition process, work towards gaining the knowledge during the season, and periodically check in with staff to make updates on their original plans. This did not exactly happen as planned, and even though 28 farmers started a Transitioning Farmer Plan, some plans were discontinued while other plans changed shape dramatically over the course of the season and the project’s duration.

The first group of farmers who enrolled in the Transitioning Farmer Program had been farming with New Entry from the early years of the project’s development. These farmers were all immigrants and refugees whose language and literacy levels varied greatly. Some of these farmers were fluent in English and had strong literacy skills, but others were non-English speakers who also could not read or write in their native language. It was difficult for staff to effectively communicate the changes and expectations for participation relevant to the development of the Transitioning Farmer Program. This first group of farmers enrolled in the Transitioning Farmer Program were already farming and it was difficult to impose a new set of “protocols” on these farmers. They had been farming for decades both in their countries of origin and in the US and they were not necessarily asking for advice or knowledge. This group of farmers was mostly interested in continued farming at the small scale that they had been operating on for years. They did not necessarily want to increase skills or knowledge and had little time for workshops or other personal or professional development opportunities. New Entry found that a Transitioning Plan for these farmers simply meant identifying their goals and helping them meet the goals. For these farmers, all they really needed was a secure piece of farmland with access to resources such as water and equipment. Since they had been farming at the New Entry incubator site for more than three seasons prior to the development of the Transitioning Farmer Program, it was time for New Entry to help these farmers find their own independent farmland.

New Entry learned that a farmer’s transition to independence is more organic than what can be captured in a formal Transitioning Farmer Plan. There are many variables and obstacles to consider for limited resource farmers, each variable changing with the individual farmer’s personal life circumstance and journey. It is impossible in a dynamic situation to retain static plans. Because of some of the obstacles limited resource farmers face, things can change quickly and staff learned that in order to move forward in the transition process, there needed to be a large degree of flexibility in how we implemented the program and still meet the needs of limited resource transitioning farmers.

Milestone 2 – Beginning winter 2005, NESFP will pilot its new Transitioning Farmer Training and Technical Assistance (T&TA) program. Throughout the project period, 20-25 farmers will participate in advanced workshops, on-farm trainings, visits to other farms and marketing facilities, and attend farm conferences. Each farmer will receive up to 10 hours per month in individual and group consultations to address their transitional farming implementation.

During the first year of the Transitioning Farmer Training and Technical Assistance (T&TA) program, a core group of seven New Entry farmers attended workshops, on-farm trainings, conferences, and paid visits to other farms. During the second year of the program, attendance increased with over 30 farmers attending workshops, on-farm trainings, conferences and visits to other farms. Of the 30 farmers that attended various events and learning opportunities, ten of them were New Entry project farmers. Other farmers and members of surrounding communities sought out and attended New Entry events to learn more about the practical aspects of farming, mostly through participation in the hands-on field trainings. Throughout the second season, there was again a core group of about seven New Entry farmers that consistently took advantage of events and learning opportunities such as workshops, on-farm trainings, conferences, and visits to other farms. During the third year of the Transitioning Farmer Program, farmer participation increased even more with 33 farmers who came to on-farm trainings, advanced workshops, conferences, and visits to other farms. Of this group, about 26 participants were either current New Entry farmers, or were New Entry Farm Business Course students (potential New Entry farmers-to-be). The other eight attendees were farmers or community members who had a special interest in learning about a particular workshop topic.

At the end of each year, New Entry modified its workshops and field trainings to better meet the needs of the farmer constituency and increase overall participation in project-sponsored events. New Entry was able to make effective changes to its programming every season by holding an annual evaluation meeting with farmers and asking them what they would like to see changed for next season’s workshop topics and on-farm offerings. New Entry used the farmer feedback to hone the project’s educational opportunities. New Entry also utilized its own observations with trends in farmer participation to help refine this aspect of the Transitioning Farmer Program. Some trends noticed by staff were that on-farm versus off-site workshops were better attended and that the on-farm workshops offered at the beginning of the season were better attended than those workshops offered toward the end of the season. Farmers wanted to see more on-farm trainings each year and reported that they did not have time to go offsite during the growing season.

Over the course of three years, the highest level of farmer participation occurred during the third year. New Entry hopes that the trend in increasing interest over time is a result of offering workshop topics and learning opportunities that are of true value to farmers. Increased outreach opportunities and new outreach methods also may have helped engage additional farmers in New Entry opportunities. The New Entry website was revised and field training postcards were distributed in Lowell and the surrounding communities to remind producers of upcoming field trainings. Bi-monthly field training postcards were developed to give the farmers and the public an at-a-glance introduction to the New Entry in-field learning opportunities. The postcards were printed in color, and each postcard listed a two-month workshop schedule. Information on the postcard was displayed in a calendar format. The workshop title, a short description of the material covered, the location, date and time of the workshop were all included on the face of the postcard, and directions to the workshop locations and New Entry contact details appeared on the back. The postcards proved to be a good way for farmers to easily remember the dates, locations and particulars of the workshops throughout the season. The postcards were succinct and small enough in size for people to post them on a fridge, a corkboard or other high traffic area. The New Entry website was completely overhauled and became a more accessible and navigable resource in general. Ways to enroll in training programs, access resources, schedules of events, and farmer spotlights were clear components of the revised New Entry website. Another reason for increased farmer participation may have been that during the three years, New Entry expanded its mission to include not only immigrant and refugee farmers, but also US-born beginning farmers. The increased awareness of local food systems has seemingly sparked an interest in native-born individuals to learn how to produce food. In the future, New Entry will continue honing its programs and services to reflect the education needs of immigrant, refugee and native-born beginning farmers.

Throughout the project period, over 40 different farmers attended over 35 workshops, advanced workshops, on-farm trainings and conferences on topics such as risk management, pesticides I and II, weed management, disease management, water and irrigation management, nutrient management, cover cropping I and II, equipment use and repair, post-harvest handling, laying out fields and making raised beds, hoophouse management and seedling propagation, season extension, farm safety, value-added farm products, financial literacy, Brassica School twilight meetings at UMass Extension, and research field days at the UNH Cooperative Extension program.

In addition to the workshops, field trainings, and conferences, each farmer who enrolled in the Transitioning Farmer Program was able to receive at least two hours of one-on-one Technical Assistance every week. Over the course of three years, New Entry farmers received in excess of 2,700 hours in one-on-one technical assistance. In New Entry’s view, Technical Assistance was the project’s cornerstone to increased farmer skills, adoption of new techniques, and changes in management practices. Since the practical skills and field-based training workshops were only three hours in length, they were limited by time in how much information could be disseminated. Workshops were generally offered once per season per topic, and although they served as an excellent introduction to many topics, there was still much more to learn. One-on-one technical follow up was the most critical part of farmer learning and skills adoption each season. Farmers that took advantage of the Technical Assistance follow up were generally the ones to adopt best practices more readily and appropriately than the few who did not take advantage of the TA follow up.

The Technical Assistance protocol was designed to play a critical role in the Transitioning Farmer Program. The Program was a three-year process that provided the most amount of hours of Technical Assistance to farmers during their first year, a slightly less amount the second year, and even less during the third year. Most of the Technical Assistance hours during the first and second years were focused on production, marketing, risk management and recordkeeping, where in the second to third years, farmers were provided with more Technical Assistance on finding, assessing and transitioning to independent farmland.

CASE STUDY: SEONA B. NGUFOR
Seona Ngufor entered the project as a trainee in the fall of 2005. When Seona began the 16-week farmer training course, she had no agricultural experience in the United States. She had grown up farming in Cameroon, but her farming activities in Cameroon were limited to a subsistence level of production and resale marketing. Seona had extensive knowledge of the culture and production of crops that were grown in Cameroon, but had little experience on how to cultivate many crops adapted to Massachusetts zone-5 climate. Seona was also very familiar with the use of local (to her village) hand tools that were appropriate on a smaller production scale, but in order for her to ramp up to commercial production, she would need to quickly learn about mechanized small farm equipment. It was clear that Seona’s learning curve would be steep in her first growing season in Massachusetts, and that individual technical assistance would have to be provided to her on a regular basis.

During Seona’s first year of production, she was given between two to four hours of technical assistance every week. Seona took full advantage of the New Entry field trainings and became a regular at the events. During her first season, Seona produced on a ½ acre plot and spent all of her time tending to it. Since Seona was not working another job, this full-time farming schedule was amenable to her. She managed her plot well, but spent an incomprehensible amount of time working by hand. Seona did not adopt mechanized practices and did not apply organic pesticides (or any chemical deterrents) to her crops, even if it meant critical losses in production. Staff worked hard to teach her how to use the equipment and resources to her benefit, but Seona was still reluctant to adopt the new practices. It was theorized that with more technical assistance and new approaches applied during the next season that Seona would find it easier to adopt more efficient farming practices.
During the winter after Seona’s first growing season with the project, she met with staff on a weekly basis to improve her farm business plan, and to order seeds and materials. At this point in her progress as a beginning farmer, Seona found it very difficult to know how much and what kinds of seeds, plants and materials she would need in order to produce for her markets. A good deal of time was also spent in helping Seona think about, research, define, and find her market outlets. During her first winter, Seona was taught how to determine her seeds and production materials needs, and she was able to secure some new markets. With the help of project staff, Seona also continued making progress on her farm business plan.

During Seona’s second growing season with New Entry, she started demonstrating more proficiency with crop culture, spacing etc, but she still struggled with overall management of the farm. She expanded her plot slightly and also took on an outside job. Project staff worked with her for two hours per week, almost every week, to help her learn how to use new technology, organic pesticides, and small farm equipment so that she could better manage her space within the time constraints of her new off-farm job commitment. Weeds tended to get out of control and plantings were not done in a timely manner. Project staff tried to teach Seona about the benefits and proper use of the push seeder, the walk behind tractor, the flame weeder, and the backpack sprayer. All of these innovations would have helped Seona’s efficiency and management, but since they were so far removed from her realm of experience and cultural context (women in rural Cameroon do not use equipment or machinery), New Entry saw that the likelihood of a change in management practice was very slim. The second season was slightly less intensive in terms of the amount of technical assistance provided to Seona, and staff realized that the degree to which the farmer wanted to learn about certain things had been realized.

During Seona’s second winter with the project, she accessed technical assistance on a somewhat less regular basis than she did during her first winter. Seona received several hours of technical assistance every month to have staff review her seed and materials selections, and to help her make updates to her business plan. It was clear that Seona had increased her proficiency for crop and production planning over the last two years.

As Seona moved onto her plot at the New Entry incubator site for her third and last season, she expanded to almost one acre. At the same time of her expansion, Seona took on two more jobs outside of her farm, which took away most of her time originally reserved for farm work. Seona’s outside commitments, coupled with the fact that she did not adopt mechanized practices, put her at a disadvantage and increased her risk of failure during her last season. It was clear that Seona now had an excellent grasp on the theories of weed, nutrient, pest and crop management, but she was in over her head with other jobs and too much acreage on her hands. The project provided significantly less technical assistance to Seona in her final year at the incubator training site and focused on finding her independent (and more permanent) land that she could farm on scale that was appropriate to her needs. During Seona’s last season at the incubator site, time was put into finding land that met Seona’s needs and placing her on that land. A parcel of land was identified less than 5 miles from her original site, and Seona worked with project staff and the landowners to craft a Memorandum of Understanding that met the needs of all parties involved. Seona will have access to this land for as long as she would like to produce on it, and was not required to invest in any infrastructure or capital improvements. The land was prepared in the early fall for Seona’s transition the following spring. Seona has already taken advantage of the new space and managed to plant her garlic crop on time.

Overall, Seona moved through the transitioning farmer program fluidly, engaging in all of the services offered by the project. Seona took maximum advantage of the resources and opportunities through the project in order to reach her unique potential as a grower. She did not end up on a 50-acre farm, or have the need to purchase large farm equipment or apply for farm loans, but she got what she wanted and needed out of the project. She is a small grower, making money on the products she is producing, and for her, that level of success is enough. The stories for many of the farmers in our program are similar to this one in terms of the time invested in each individual and the services rendered, but New Entry recognizes that it is our charge as teachers and service providers to fully understand the needs of individual growers in order to help them achieve the goals that have been defined by them. New Entry staff are confident Seona will continue to farm independently on her new site for many years to come.

Milestone 3 – Beginning in 2005, we will assist 20+ farmers to start identifying farm sites for sale or lease. We will assist 10 farmers to assess remediation needs and to plan site improvements.

In 2006, New Entry assisted five farmers to begin identifying farm sites for lease as part of their individual Transitioning Farmer Program goals All of these farmers were able to identify land that was suitable for their individual goals, and learned about the site improvement needs specific to those sites. In 2006, two sites were identified, and the area of production totaled ten acres. Remediation and site improvement steps included pond water testing, water feasibility studies, soil tests, and assessments of outbuilding condition and improvements. In 2006, one well was installed, and ten acres of farmland were plowed, amended and cover cropped in preparation for the 2007 growing season. Fences were repaired and two outbuildings were updated to serve as marketing and storage facilities for the New Entry transitioning farmers.

Although two sites were identified in 2006, only one site came into production. The first site was a 60-acre parcel, where three New Entry farmers secured an acre each. The three farmers had been farming together at the same New Entry incubator site since 2001, and the decision for them to move together to the same independent piece of land came as a group choice. The three farmers were comfortable farming next to each other, cooperated well together, shared resources, similar production styles, language and culture. In this new endeavor, the three farmers felt more confident and comfortable that they all were able to transition to the same location. The farmers participated in creating a long-term renewable lease (10 years) and had the option of expansion to additional acreage in future years.
Production on the second parcel of farmland identified in 2006 fell through after the site was assessed, plowed, amended and cover cropped in anticipation of the transition because the grower suffered an unusually difficult year in 2006 and changed his mind about wanting to farm in 2007. This parcel was to be farmed by two growers as a partnership, and when one grower backed out, the other grower decided not to move forward with the plan.

In 2007, ten growers were assisted in identifying farmland, eight growers were helped to assess the sites for soil quality, water quality and reclamation needs, and one grower implemented the recommended steps for site improvement and addressed site reclamation needs. The grower that was successful in implementing the recommended site improvement needs farmed for one season on that land. This particular grower’s home and work was located more than 30 miles from the New Entry incubator sites. If he opted to farm on land located so far away, he would use more resources and lose valuable time commuting to and from the site. For this first-year grower, it seemed far more appropriate to help him minimize risk by finding and placing him on independently owned land that was closer to his home. New Entry began a farmland search within a ten mile radius of the farmer’s home address and discovered that a local town conservation commission was stewarding a mid-size parcel of farmland. The commission decided to put the land into community gardens, but since the parcel was vast, could only utilize a fraction of the acreage for community garden plots. The conservation commission was very interested in supporting the needs of the New Entry grower, and offered an acre or more of space for him to use. The site needed some improvements, but came with amenities such as storage, running water, compost, and spring/fall tractor work. The conservation commission was also interested in working with the grower to allow alternative production systems such as aquaponics and extended season production. The grower was approved by the conservation commission to build high-tunnels for early and late season production. If the grower wanted to expand in future seasons, the conservation commission was ready to accommodate that expansion by making other land in town available for improvements and crop production. The grower farmed a one-acre parcel that season and received copious amounts of time in Technical Assistance in order to meet with the conservation commission agents and the garden community. Together, the farmer and the conservation agents developed a Memorandum of Understanding and assessed the site’s needs for improvement. The grower was assisted in attaining outside contacts for custom tractor work and other agricultural resources, tools and equipment. The grower created a farm business plan in the New Entry course, and intended on using that plan during his first season on independent land. Due to his primary occupation, the grower was not able to devote the amount of time to his farm business as necessary and did not have a successful first year in production. The grower had many innovative ideas, and articulated those ideas in a well-crafted business plan, but could not implement them due to other priorities and commitments. The grower stopped farming on the identified farmland, but hopes one day to be in the financial position to work towards farming as a full-time occupation. He continues to seek available farmland for purchase, but has yet to do so.

In 2008, New Entry assisted eleven farmers in identifying farmland. Of these eleven growers, seven growers were assisted in assessing the sites for reclamation needs and water and soil quality. Of the seven growers who were assisted with land assessments, two growers moved forward with implementing the site improvement and reclamation steps recommendations made by New Entry staff. The first grower was a new graduate of the New Entry Farm Business Planning class, and the second grower was a third-year participant in the Project. The first grower was assisted in securing a five acre parcel of farmland (of which he used one acre). New Entry made recommendations for soil amendments, tillage, cover cropping and irrigation plans. The grower was able to implement New Entry recommendations and began preparing the land for 2009 production. Fall cover crops and late fall market crops were planted. The grower was assisted in negotiating terms for rental of the land and securing access to large farm equipment in 2008. Many one-on-one Technical Assistance hours were spent to assist this grower in identifying, assessing, and securing farmland.

The second grower who worked with New Entry to identify, assess and implement farmland reclamation recommendations did so after three years’ tenure with the Project. The second grower was assisted to identify a parcel of five tillable acres, of which she will produce on one acre beginning in 2009. After the site was identified, recommendations for lime, other amendments and cover crops were provided to the grower, and she worked with the landowner to complete the recommended soil improvements and improve the irrigation source. The grower was assisted to secure a lease and a Memorandum of Understanding with the landowners and has prepared the site for 2009 production. Market crops were planted on this land in the late fall.

During the course of the Transitioning Farmer Project, New Entry helped 24 growers to identify farmland, 19 to assess site remediation needs, and eight to implement remediation recommendations.

Milestone 4 – In 2005 NESFP will set up a centralized facility to improve handling, washing, storage, cooling, packaging, and transportation for use by 20-25 NESFP farmers in the Lowell / Dracut area, and assist 10-15 farmers in other areas to access similar facilities. NESFP and 12 farmers will initiate a marketing cooperative that will distribute products to both retail and wholesale outlets.

During the summers of 2005 and 2006, New Entry set up a centralized facility for post-harvest washing, packaging, cooling and transportation at its Richardson’s Dairy site in Dracut, MA. The washing facility was easily accessible to most participants in the New Entry program and was designed so that the farmers can wash, package, cool, and store vegetables in an efficient way. The cooler unit, which abuts the washing station, was located close-by so that the farmers can immediately place their clean, packaged products in a temperature-controlled facility. The New Entry produce transport van was parked at the Richardson’s Dairy site, so that when the farmers were finished with their post-harvest washing, packaging, and cooling, the transport van is on site and ready to be loaded for delivery. Over the course of three years, 20 farmers directly benefited from this station and many continue to use it regularly.

In 2005, New Entry assisted many project farmers in starting a farmer-driven marketing cooperative, called the World Peas Coop. In the first season, the coop piloted sales at two area farmers markets. In 2006, World Peas Coop expanded its marketing efforts and distributed to three wholesale accounts, four farmers markets, an urban farm stand, and started a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) program, which successfully served 15 members in the 2006 season. In total, nine farmers were involved in and contributed to the marketing coop and sales increased four-fold over 2005.

During the summer of 2007, the post-harvest washing facilities were expanded at all New Entry farms. The technical assistance staff and New Entry farmers established in-field satellite wash stations designed for rapid cooling with minimum time between harvest and submersion. The vegetables could be transported to the nearby New Entry cooler without the stress of field heat affecting quality while in transport. The satellite wash stations were used on a regular basis by seven New Entry farmers. Wash station management and hygiene at each of the sites were reinforced by an annual post-harvest handling training and frequent monitoring by Coop coordinating staff.

In 2007 the marketing coop distributed to five wholesale accounts, three farmers markets, and also continued and expanded the CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) program, which successfully served 46 members in the 2007 season. In total, 12 New Entry farmers were involved in and contributed to the marketing coop and took advantage of the improved centralized post harvest handling, washing, storage, cooling, and packaging facility. Over $46,000 of produce was sold in 2007 by these 12 growers, an increase in sales of over 161% from 2006.

During the summer of 2008, over 20 farmers used the New Entry post-harvest washing and cooling facilities. The World Peas Marketing Coop expanded to serve a 100-member CSA and included the contributions of 30 farms. The Coop decided to drop the wholesale outlets and farmers markets to concentrate on meeting the produce needs of its 100 member CSA. The Coop included separate fruit share and winter share options in the CSA, and $57,605 of produce was sold in 2008 by 30 growers, an increase in sales of 18% from 2007. Farmers marketed to wholesale accounts independently and were given technical assistance that helped maximize their farmers markets opportunities and experiences. In order for farmers to realize such growth, it was important that they had increased access to crop and business planning tools prior to the start of the growing season. Before the season started, technical assistance staff sat down with each farmer and helped them script a market-driven production plan and field schedule. The field schedule was a document that laid out seeding, transplanting and harvest dates for the entire season for each farmer in every crop that he or she planned to grow that season. The document also detailed the amount of seed and physical space that would be used/required for each succession planting. During the course of the season, staff could provide production schedule guidance to farmers by working from the field schedule document, which ensured the timeliness and quantity of plantings and product. The creation of field schedules helped farmers stay on a production schedule so that they were better prepared to meet their market demands and commitments.

Milestone 5 – By mid-2006, at least 15 participating farmers will have made significant progress on their transitional plans, with 2 moving onto independent sites. By mid 2007 and 2008, at least 20 and then 25 participating farmers respectively will have made significant transitional progress and 3-5 will move onto independent sites each year.

Since the usage of project funds were behind one full year, the following narrative reflects the change in timeline.

At this point, it is worth mentioning how ideas and definitions changed about what a transitional farm plan became over the course of the project. New Entry began the Transitioning Farmer Program by enrolling project farmers in a three-year track of programs and services to independence. Farmers who had been on project land for several years before the Transitioning Farmer Program was conceived were enrolled in the program and were expected to be independent of the project in the near future. Many of these farmers did not speak English and many of them could not read or write. The notion that these farmers would willingly script a plan to independence upon New Entry’s request was unrealistic. Other farmers who were just entering the Project knew from the outset of their involvement that they were expected to design a three year plan and work towards an independent farm business. The older veteran farmers did not enter New Entry with the understanding that they would transition to independence, and this narrative will be used to explain how so many different farmers with so many different needs, goals and expectations, made their eventual transitions to independence. The Transitioning Farmer Program was not a one-size-fits-all process, and New Entry learned that increased program flexibility generally resulted in greater farmer success.

The first year Transitioning Farmer Plan protocol was ineffective and unrealistic. As noted in the Materials and Methods section of this report, staff assessed farmers’ needs, made a checklist of competencies, and asked the farmers to describe their farm goals. The checklist was designed to serve as an indicator of what the farmer already knew, and what he or she needed to learn/achieve in order to be independent. The first transitioning plans were conceived in a virtual vacuum, and were revisited and updated over the course of three-year project. It was difficult, especially in the first season, to impose learning opportunities and standards on farmers who did not express a need to increase their skills or knowledge accordingly. When New Entry learned that some of the project farmers were already at the level of skills and production that was satisfactory to them, staff started working towards reducing services provided and spent more time assisting those incoming farmers who were expecting to be engaged in a physical and educational transition over time. For the veteran farmers, project land that was intended to be an incubator site was being used by farmers who had reached their personal goals in terms of skills, knowledge and production and who had been farming on project land for many years. More farmer trainees were entering the project each year, and these new farmers needed land on the New Entry sites to begin farming.

Three of the project farmers at one of the three New Entry training sites were assisted in a transition to independent farmland with no prior connection to the project. Three other farmers at another New Entry training site decided to gain independence by transitioning the terms of the training site lease from an agreement between New Entry and the landowner to an agreement directly between themselves (the farmers) and the landowner. This arrangement suited all parties involved: (a) the landowner – who wanted to continue to rent land to the original farmers in the program and did not want the land to become a rotating training site; (b) the project – who determined that the special nature of the land at this site would not be suitable for cultivation by novice farmers (rocky, wet, peat-bog type soil from years of municipal compost application, and adjacent to hay fields which created intense pest pressure), and (c) the farmers – who had a long history on the land putting in years of sweat equity and were not eager to start over on a new farm.

By mid-2007 there were 28 farmers who made progress on their transitioning farmer plans. All graduates of the New Entry training program articulated some form of future farming goals, and made progress towards achieving those goals. Most transitioning farmer plans from 2007 forward took the form of complete Farm Business Plans. Farmers that entered the project in 2006 created less formal Farm Business Plans and used those as foundations to reach their farm business goals, but the farmers who graduated in and before 2005 had little interest in creating formal transitioning plans. Instead, most farmers in the latter group simply stated that their goals were to continue farming in the area they were currently farming, and on suitable farmland that was good for their crops.

By mid-2007, seven farming families were transitioned to independent sites according to their formal or informal transitioning farmer plans. Three farmers moved from a New Entry incubator site to independent farmland and are still farming today. Three farmers transitioned from an incubator site to their independently leased and managed farmsite, and one farmer secured land in a community not served by New Entry and farmed for one year.

By mid 2008, 25 more New Entry farmers started and made progress on their transitioning farmer plans, for a total of 53 farmers who made progress on transitioning farmer plans since the SARE project inception. By mid-2008 two more farmers successfully transitioned to independent farmland, for a total of 8 farmers who have transitioned to independent land. By mid-2009, New Entry expects that 15 more farmers will develop and make progress on transitioning farmer plans, and that three more growers will transition to independent farmland.

As New Entry learned more about helping farmers start farming and eventually transitioning to independence, it made sense to teach farmers how to write formal business plans and to help them update and implement their business plans for two seasons. During the winter before the third season, the farmers would revise the business plan for the last time with guidance from New Entry staff and would search for farmland that would be suitable for their proposed plan. New Entry learned that it is difficult and pointless to encourage farmers with little production or business management experience to articulate their farm dream and set a plan to achieve that dream in the first year or two on the ground. It is important that new growers learn business and technical skills, then define how they can and want to realistically engage in agriculture. In order to be most effective, New Entry learned that transitioning farmer plans should be dynamic and organic, not bound by protocols of an academically-designed system. Farm plans should be living documents, like a business plan, that have a purpose in the real world instead of a list of checkmarks and competencies. As the program evolved, it became clear that beginning farmers benefited most from creating and implementing a cursory first-year business plan and checking it against the reality of a full growing season. Farmers were in a much better position to readjust goals and expectations, and to script seasoned plans for following years.

Participation Summary

Education

Educational approach:

New Entry assisted in the creation of many plain language guides that were designed to reach a diversity of beginning farmer audiences. For the purposes of the training and technical assistance components of the transitioning farmer program, the Plain Language Guide to Post-Harvest Handling was created and relied heavily upon by farmers and project staff. This guide walked farmers through best practices for harvesting, washing, cooling, bunching and storing their crops. Two other plain language guides that were used (but with less frequency) include the Plain Language Guide to NASS End of the Season Fruit and Vegetable Survey and the Plain Language Guide to Applying for an FSA Loan. All of these guides were available to the New Entry farmers and the general public and are available on the New Entry website.

New Entry also conducts a significant amount of outreach to public and private landowners, municipalities, state organizations, and private land conservation organizations in search of farmland on which to place transitioning farmers. New Entry has conducted mailings, email blasts, phone calls, and community information sessions to communicate with landowners about transitioning farmers’ needs for farmland. When farmland is identified, New Entry staff conduct assessments of the land and resources and continues working towards lease or purchase negotiations with the land owner(s) and prospective farmer.

Additional Project Outcomes

Project outcomes:

Impacts of Results/Outcomes

Outcome 1 – Of 40 immigrant farmers who graduate our initial training courses between 2004-2006, 20-25 will participate in a 3-year Transitioning Farmer Program to develop sustainable farming enterprises.

Between 2005-2008, 28 farmers participated in a 3-year Transitioning Farmer Program.

Outcome 2 – 8-10 farmers will achieve independent farm operations.

Eight farmers achieved independent farm operations over the course of three years.

Economic Analysis

Since the only hard economic data collected came from farmer contributions to the World Peas Coop, New Entry feels that is appropriate to speak anecdotally to this topic.

Farmers who worked with New Entry and began their farming operations at incubator sites were able to start their farm businesses at a significantly reduced financial risk and cost than would be expected from an independent first year farm business. Generally, beginning farmers could start up a half-acre operation at a New Entry incubator site for less than $2,000, reducing their start-up costs by up to $10,000. Farmers at the incubator sites did not have to capitalize their businesses on a large scale, because of existing infrastructure at the farm sites. The infrastructure and farming-related costs absorbed by the project include: water systems and irrigation (well, pump, main lines, fittings, filters and regulators); hoophouse structures; storage facilities; a cooler and post-harvest washing facilities; shade shelters; commercial-scale walk behind tractors with many interchangeable implements; other small equipment such as mowers, weed trimmers, flame weeders, push seeders, and backpack sprayers; organic pesticides; and access to reduced-cost custom tractor work. Over the course of three years, farmers were encouraged to make smart use of the income generated from their farming business so that they would be financially well-positioned for their transition to independence in the future. Subsidized costs of renting the incubator training farm plots, use of equipment, coolers, and pesticides and other fees were assessed to farmers to provide an introductory financial reality in operating a farm business.
Over the course of four years, farmers have said that their farm-generated incomes have ranged from $1,000 to just under $10,000 per acre. This information is only anecdotal, and it has been a challenge for New Entry to solicit financial data (other than Coop data) from its farmers. Farmers who begin farm businesses at a New Entry incubator site can generate profit in their first three years of farming. Most New Entry beginning farmers do not have to take out loans to begin their businesses, and have the potential to profit during their first years as new farmers.

Farmer Adoption

The Transitioning Farmer Program called for farmers to learn and apply many aspects of small business management and sustainable vegetable production. In order for farmers to become transitioned to independence, it was critical that they learned about the best ways to operate a small farm business, and to actively adopt those practices. Some of the tangible practices that farmers adopted as part of the transitioning farmer program were knowledge and use of sustainable irrigation systems, hoophouse production, crop rotation and nutrient management, organic pest management, marketing, recordkeeping. All of the New Entry farmers began their tenure with the project with little to no knowledge of drip irrigation systems or other sustainable production techniques, and currently, five of the seven transitioned farmers who irrigate are using drip irrigation systems. All of the transitioned farmers produce their own seedlings in greenhouses or hoophouses, many of the houses have been constructed by the farmers themselves. Almost all of the transitioned New Entry farmers, seven out of eight, also now rely on organic methods of pest control (row cover, appropriate use of organic pesticides) compared to their limited understanding of appropriate pest management prior to the program. All of the farmers now practice regular crop rotation. All of the farmers are keenly aware of organic matter in the soil and add compost as a primary means of nutrient management. All of the farmers who successfully transitioned are still farming. The fact that the growers are still farming is an indicator of the farmers’ willingness and success in adopting practices that make their operations viable.

Assessment of Project Approach and Areas of Further Study:

Areas needing additional study

1) Research on the comparison of success rates between US born and non-US born beginning farmers would be helpful information to have moving forward. There are millions of non-native born people in the US who come here with (subsistence) farming backgrounds, but they have not become the next generation of new farmers. There is not enough data comparing these two distinct farmer segments at this time, but it is theorized that US born beginning farmers will have greater success rates in becoming independent farmers than their non-native born farmer counterparts. Research geared to validating this claim and finding the causes of this trend could enable beginning farmer training projects to balance the success rates of US born and non-native born beginning farmers and efficiently increase the overall numbers of beginning farmers in the US over time.

2) New Entry spent thousands of hours designing and delivering a technical assistance program. It was clear to us that individual technical assistance was a key factor to farmer achievement, but it was difficult to determine an optimal level of service in this category. Additional research is needed on how much technical assistance can be can be pared back in order for programs to be operating at the highest degree of efficiency while maintaining optimal transitioning farmer success rates.

3) More research is still needed in terms of best ways to engage and recruit potential farmers into beginning farmer training programs. A comprehensive market research plan needs to be developed and implemented to define segments of the population that are most likely to engage in agriculture. A marketing plan needs to be developed and implemented to reach this segment, and ideas have to be generated to gain buy-in from new farmer prospects. At this point, it is hard to tell where to find pre-emergent (potential) farmers. With further market research, data that would help farmer training projects identify, engage and recruit new farmers could be made available. At the current time, there is not enough information available on the potential farmer population and what key factors might encourage their entry to agriculture.

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.