- Animal Production: feed/forage, housing, feed additives, free-range, grazing management, watering systems
- Crop Production: food product quality/safety
- Education and Training: demonstration, display, extension, farmer to farmer, mentoring, networking, workshop, technical assistance
- Farm Business Management: whole farm planning, new enterprise development, budgets/cost and returns, community-supported agriculture, cooperatives, marketing management, e-commerce, farm-to-institution, feasibility study, agricultural finance, market study, risk management, value added
- Natural Resources/Environment: biodiversity, grass waterways, soil stabilization, wetlands, wildlife
- Production Systems: holistic management, organic agriculture, permaculture, transitioning to organic
- Soil Management: green manures, organic matter, composting, soil quality/health
- Sustainable Communities: ethnic differences/cultural and demographic change, leadership development, local and regional food systems, new business opportunities, partnerships, public participation, public policy, urban agriculture, urban/rural integration, analysis of personal/family life, employment opportunities, social capital, social networks
The South Dakota Beginning Farmer Training and Linking project will build an educational network for beginning farmers in South Dakota that: - links them with existing sustainable farmers as mentors, - trains them in goal setting and values clarification, whole farm planning, financial planning, time & money, record keeping, sustainable farming methods, marketing, business planning, and connecting to resources, and - helps them find the land, equipment, and other resources they need to start farming. Dakota Rural Action (DRA) will use evaluations and feedback of this project to refine the Farm Beginnings platform, developed by the Land Stewardship Project, to meet the unique needs of beginning farmers and ranchers in South Dakota. South Dakota’s population sparcity, land tenure, and relatively low numbers of existing sustainable farmers and local foods marketing outlets present unique challenges. This project will meet the need for a sustainable, practical beginning farmer training program in South Dakota. The project’s approach is to implement the training with modifications and evaluate its effectiveness. Outcomes include: - one 10-week Farm Beginnings class with at least 10 families participating, - three farm/demonstration tours, - a list serve/discussion board, - mentorship matches, - lists of beginning farming opportunities found in South Dakota and land/equipment/resource needs identified by class participants, and - written evaluations and reports. The evaluation plan includes pre- and post-course participant questionnaires, evaluations after each session, mentor and mentee evaluation calls and surveys, steering committee evaluation and reports.
Project objectives from proposal:
Expected short-term outcomes of the South Dakota Beginning Farmer Training and Linking Program include:
1. Ten to twenty participants (family units) in eastern South Dakota will increase their working knowledge and their skills in goal setting and values clarification, whole farm planning, financial planning, time & money, record keeping, sustainable farming methods, marketing, business planning, and connecting to resources.
2. Ten to twenty participants (family units) will gain awareness of potential mentors, experienced farmers and ranchers who possess relevant skills and training to support participants’ learning needs.
3. Ten to twenty participants (family units) will increase their awareness of opportunities in South Dakota to obtain land, equipment, or other resources by linking with retiring or continuing farmers and ranchers.
4. DRA will have an increased understanding of the needs of beginning and small-scale farmers and ranchers in South Dakota; the challenges of bringing intensive beginning farming training to South Dakota; the effectiveness of using web-based tools to overcome those challenges; and the opportunities and obstacles associated with helping beginning farmers link with retiring and/or existing farmers and rural communities to find land, machinery, and other resources.
Expected intermediate-term outcomes include:
1. At least five of the family participants will use their completed plan and new knowledge to begin, modify, or expand a farming/ranching business.
2. At least five family participants will have formed informal mentoring relationships, lasting up to one year, with experienced farmers and ranchers who possess relevant skills and training to support participants’ learning needs.
3. At least one participant will follow-up on opportunities for land, equipment, or experience transfer, to modify, expand, or begin a sustainable farming business.
4. DRA will modify future training formats for facilitators, presenters, and mentors; will modify communication strategies (including technology) for future courses; will modify the Farm Beginnings program to better meet the unique needs of South Dakota beginning farmers and ranchers; and will begin planning a second Beginning Farmer Training and Linking Program in South Dakota, possibly in the western half of the state.
Expected long-term outcomes include:
1. An effective on-going beginning farmer & rancher program will be running in various locations throughout South Dakota.
2. South Dakota will see an increase in smaller-scale sustainable farms and ranches running successful businesses in the state.
3. South Dakota’s small-scale sustainable farmers and ranchers will strengthen their support networks.
4. Geographic areas in South Dakota will attain a critical mass of sustainable farmers and ranchers, making possible marketing networks and local and statewide policy initiatives.