Training - Supporting the Next Generation of Northeast Sustainable Farmers

2001 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. A collaboration developed a regional network infrastructure for beginning farmer programs and services and pilot programs in farmer skill-building, land access, and business training. We have produced four publications, including a regional directory and gap analysis of beginning farmer programs and services, designed a competency-based skills training curriculum, implemented an entry-level business planning course, and networked and improved land-linking programs. We have expanded the service provider network and secured a $1.7m USDA grant to strengthen and expand our efforts over the next four years.

Objectives/Performance Targets

1. Objectives/Performance Targets: (NOTE: This project commenced before the “outcomes approach” was adopted by NE SARE. An outcomes orientation was added during the second year of the project.) To develop a regional network of educational programs and support services that address the needs of beginning farmer “customers”; to establish and pilot test new service delivery partnerships and curricula for a) on-farm competency-based farming skills training and b) farmer-mentor training; to increase the capacity of regional land linking services; to develop regionally-relevant business training materials for sustainable farm start-ups; and to promote access to credit programs for beginning farmers in the Northeast.


This report covers Year 2 of this project. Project collaborators completed a series of focus groups with different types of new farmers and collected feedback on their learning needs and preferences. A project publication, “Listening to New Farmers: Findings from New Farmer Focus Groups,” reports learnings from these events, and posits a typology of new farmers and a framework for developing customized services to meet their needs. Based on these discussions, and the Year I meeting of the Advisory Group, we produced a second publication, “Exploring the Concept of Farming Career Paths.”

Working with a service provider contact in each state, we prepared an inventory of programs and services targeted to or used by new farmers. The resulting product, “Northeast New Farmer Programs and Services Directory 2001” is 60 pages of organizational and programmatic resources presented by topic and by geography. One important finding that is reflected in the presentation of the directory is the distinction between programs that are targeted to new farmers — specifically designed for new farmers, and those that are relevant — those that are offered for general or other audiences, but from which that new farmers might benefit. Based on the findings from the inventory process, we produced a fourth publication, “Gaps in New Farmer Programs and Services,” which analyzes the array of targeted programs and proposes a framework of identifying and meeting program gaps. Web site construction was not completed. In March 2001, the project sponsored a regional conference, “Support and Serving Northeast New Farmers.” It was attended by over 100 service providers, and launched the follow-up project, Growing New Farmers.

Based on Year I DACUM occupational analyses, a curriculum framework was developed for new farmer on-farm skill training. The occupational profile was adapted as a pre-training competency (skills) assessment tool and successfully piloted in several settings. The DACUM profile for farmer mentors was verified and published. The mentor team is developing a guidebook for on-farm mentors. Two sub-regional partnerships among land grant institutions, community colleges and non-governmental site-based farmer training programs made progress, but students were not placed in skill-learning settings during Year II. Two DACUM profiles were published. In the Land Linking component, project collaborators organized and held a two-day, New England-wide training on farm transfer. Over 70 attorneys and other technical assistance providers (TAP) learned about estate and transfer planning, leasing and innovative partnerships. A TAP network was formed. Another NxLevel course was held in fall, 2000, including a resource section add on. We conducted one pilot “explorer” course in February 2001.

Impacts and Contributions/Outcomes

This project has catalyzed service providers in 12 Northeast states around new farmers. Over 130 organizations have committed to the Growing New Farmers Consortium, a direct result of this SARE-funded project. Service providers have new information and skills. Several new tools and publications were produced. New farmers are finding new resources and more effective referrals.



[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