Training - Supporting the Next Generation of Northeast Sustainable Farmers

1999 Annual Report for LNE99-119

Project Type: Research and Education
Funds awarded in 1999: $108,449.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2002
Matching Federal Funds: $15,000.00
Matching Non-Federal Funds: $120,000.00
Region: Northeast
State: Massachusetts
Project Leader:
Kathy Ruhf
New England Small Farm Institute

Training - Supporting the Next Generation of Northeast Sustainable Farmers


This project focuses on supporting new northeast farmers by developing a typology of new farmers and a network for beginning farmer programs and services. The project also includes pilot programs in farmer skill building, land access, and business training. To date, the project has developed a typology of new farmer constituents and their needs, initiated a regional inventory and gap analysis of beginning farmer programs and services, created a web-based directory, designed a competency-based training curriculum, implemented an entry-level business planning course, and networked land-link programs. We have also secured a $1.7 million USDA grant to strengthen and expand our efforts.

To establish a regional network of educational programs and support services that addresses the needs of both traditional and non-traditional beginning farmers.

To establish and test new service delivery partnerships, and curricula for on-farm competency-based training and farmer-mentor training.

To increase the capacity of regional land-linking services to conduct effective outreach and offer needed technical assistance to beginning farmers seeking secure access to farmland.

To develop regionally relevant business training materials for sustainable farm startups.

To promote access to credit programs for beginning farmers in the Northeast.

A 15-member advisory group and 12 new farmer focus groups were convened to consider the range of new farmers and their needs. Based on these discussions, we produced a typology of new and beginning farmers and a framework for understanding their characteristics and goals, as well as their learning and assistance needs and preferences. This information will be used by service providers to design and improve programs on the basis of the type of new farmer, what they need, and how they want to receive these services.

In collaboration with a beginning farmer program contact in each state, we made an inventory of beginning farmer programs and services sorted as those targeting beginning farmers and those relevant to new farmers. A web site,, was established to present a directory of these programs and services; the site will have FAQs, links, and discussion groups. Programming gaps—content, constituency, and geography—are being identified. To encourage networking and program development, we are planning a regional conference on beginning farmers for service providers in March of 2001.

We convened a DACUM (design-a-curriculum) process with two panels—one of successful sustainable farmers and the second of successful on-farm mentors—to create occupational profiles that characterizes the knowledge, skills, tools, and attitudes that small-scale farmers and on-farm mentors need to succeed. This profile was reviewed by 37 established farmers and 50 beginning farmers. In the area of access to land, we improved program delivery in New England Land Link, a regional farm transfer program, and we took advantage of new interest in state-based farm transfer services to convene a six-state collaboration to synchronize programming, outreach, and professional development. A regional training was held. For business training we conducted NxLevel’s “Tilling the Soil of Opportunity” course, which is targeted to small-farm startups. There was a waiting list. From there we developed peer-designed templates for startup action plans, relevant case histories, and a four-session explorers’ course to be piloted this year.

The activities to date have led to an understanding of new farmers: We have learned what they need and how they want to acquire skills and resources. We have catalyzed interest in beginning farmers in every northeast state and assembled the elements of a sustainable regional network of service providers. We have produced a summary of findings, a web site, a programming inventory, a curriculum framework, and a business training template.

Impacts and Potential Contributions
Largely based on the successes of this project to date, collaborators were awarded a $1.7 million grant from USDA to continue and strengthen our efforts. The products generated from this project have national relevance. This project has helped elevate the issue of next-generation farmers within the region and has contributed to the formulation of proposed beginning farmer policy for the 2002 Farm Bill.

Reported November 2000



[email protected]
Office Phone: 7329329171

[email protected]
ITHACA, NY 14853
Office Phone: 6072554121
Marion Bowlan

[email protected]
Executive Director
PA Farm Link
2708A North Colebrook Rd.
Manheim, PA 17545
Office Phone: 7176647077