Greg Van Den Berghe, with Practical Farmers of Iowa, says a dozen new farmers are accepted every fall into the Savings Incentive Program. One of the first steps is to pair them up with an experienced farm mentor and a peer network.
“The beginning farmer gives us the goals they’re looking for, what they’re looking to accomplish and expand and grow, and we look for a mentor within our network that fits that,” Van Den Berghe says. The new farmer is urged to sock away $100 a month for the duration of the two-year program, at the conclusion of which, they’ll double their saved money.
“At the end of this program, they’ve put that $2,400 away and then we match that, so they can go buy a long-term asset that’s going to add value to their farm,” Van Den Berghe says. “It’s really helping that beginning farmer get a leg up on a land purchase or a vehicle or transportation or a tractor or something of that sort.” Another key element of the program is providing support for developing a business plan for the fledgling farmstead.
“We work together with them to give them feedback on when they’re going out and showing this to lending institutions or people that are going to support them, investors and so forth,” Van Den Berghe says. “We give them the direct feedback of what are you missing and what do they see that needs to be tweaked in that.”
Since the program first launched in 2009, more than 100 beginning farmers have taken part in the program, with a collective $124,000 in matching funds. The deadline to apply is Friday.