Interest in agricultural careers is enjoying a resurgence in America. While there are many excellent opportunities in farming and ranching, beginning farmers and ranchers have unique needs for education, training, technical assistance, and outreach. For those within their first 10 years of operation, it’s vital beginning farmers and ranchers have access to capital, land, and information to help improve their operations’ profitability and sustainability.
The USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture’s (NIFA) Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program (BFRDP) provides competitive grants to organizations and institutions for education, mentoring, and technical assistance initiatives for beginning farmers or ranchers. Each year, an official Request for Applications is posted on NIFA’s website to solicit project proposals for funding.
NIFA’s BFRDP funds three types of projects:
- Standard Projectsto new and established local and regional training, education, outreach, and technical assistance initiatives that address the unique local and regional needs of beginning farmers and ranchers.
- Educational Team Projectsto help develop seamless beginning farmer and rancher education programs by conducting evaluation, coordination, and enhancement activities for Standard Projects and other non-funded beginning farmer programs.
- Curriculum and Training Clearinghouseto make educational curricula and training materials available to beginning farmers and ranchers and organizations who directly serve them.
In Fiscal Year 2020, NIFA awarded $16,783,829 in BFRDP grants. Some recent examples of funded projects include:
- In Her Shoes, Inc. received a three-year, $295,761 grant for The Increasing Agribusiness Viability Among Women and Minorities project. Their work will provide education, training and mentorship opportunities to 20 new and beginning women and minority, particularly black farmers, each year in Georgia.
- Rosebud Economic Development Corporation received a three-year, $599,326 grant to provide training and technical assistance to native American tribes in establishing new farm operations in South Dakota.
- Agriculture and Land Based Training Association received a three-year, $600,000 grant to assist Latino Immigrant farmworkers transition to organic farming by assisting to secure land and navigating transition to successful independent farming in California.
Ensuring there will be a new generation of beginning farmers and ranchers — regardless of age or production choice — is vital to continuing successful agricultural production in the U.S.