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Beginning Rancher Applies Tribal Traditions and USDA Risk Management Tools to Help Grow Her Business

Shawna Kalama is a proud member of the Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs and the Confederated Tribes and Bands of the Yakama Nation. She’s also a beginning rancher, pursuing her dream the past few years near the Cascade Mountains on the Yakama Indian Reservation in Washington State. Kalama has successfully leveraged several USDA programs to simultaneously support both her entrepreneurial education goals and her growing livestock operation.

She began earning her business degree at Heritage University, and recently participated in a risk management education program, sponsored by the USDA’s Risk Management Agency (RMA). This week, the agency announced that $8.7 million in cooperative agreement funding is available for the risk management education program for fiscal year 2016. The program introduces the agency’s risk management tools, crop and livestock insurance programs and educational partnerships to new and beginning, and traditionally underserved farmers and ranchers. The curriculum includes an overview of RMA’s Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats (SWOT) analysis tool, which identifies potential problems, and finds solutions and resources to help beginning farmers and ranchers manage risks. Nearly 90,000 producers participated in risk management education events in 2015.

Washington Woman Inspired to Grow Out on Her Own

For Elsa Torres, farming is more than just a job or a livelihood. It’s an inspiration.

Ever since she was a young girl, Elsa can remember working in orchard fields with her father, Jose Torres. It was something she loved and cherished. “My father is the person I admire the most,” said Elsa. “He came from Mexico with nothing and for 25 years he worked on an orchard that he now owns. He didn’t start out with a formal education.  But now he’s a business owner.  He’s an example of the American dream and how someone who works hard can become a success.”

Assistance Helps Beginning Farmer Improve Operation

A rich background in agriculture helped Wade Kloepping make the decision to come home to Dawson County after college and take over the family farm near Eustis, Nebraska.

Two years before graduating from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, Kloepping’s dad passed away; he was the manager of the family’s farming operation. Wade has since taken over that role. As a beginning farmer, he aimed to improve the stocking rate of his pasture, advance forage productivity and increase the amount of native plants.

Microloan Sets Stage for School Counselor to Retire to Family Ranching Operation in Southwest Georgia

As a native Georgian, it is always a treat to go back home and see what’s happening on my family farm as well as the farms of my neighbors. Today I had the pleasure of meeting Jean Oliver, a dedicated mother, daughter and cattle farmer. She recently received a microloan from the Farm Service Agency to help build her operation. Within the next 10 years, Jean plans to make the leap from working 9-to-5 as a counselor with the Cook County school system to living off of her family’s 200-year-old farm, raising and selling cattle.

Here is her story:

Planting Seeds for New Careers for our Veterans

Tucked away in the countryside of Jacksonville, Fla., is a place that offers hope and opportunity for returning veterans. Veterans Farm, a 19-acre handicap-accessible farm that helps veterans learn how to make a living from farming and find healing in the land, opened its doors in 2009. Its founder, Adam Burke, an Iraq combat veteran and Purple Heart recipient, is utilizing his skills to create a unique environment where veterans can develop agriculture skills that can help them become effective farmers or ranchers.  USDA is partnering with Veterans Farm to conduct quarterly workshops to connect these veterans to key departmental resources that can plant the seeds for their new agricultural careers.

I recently attended one of these workshops to introduce our veterans to my agency – the Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS). In particular, I talked about opportunities to strengthen the local food sector via AMS’ Farmers Market and Local Food Promotion Program (which includes the Local Food Promotion Program and the Farmers Market Promotion Program) as well as the Specialty Crop Block Grant Program. I also talked about our recent partnership with the National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) to begin a series of grant-writing workshops to help potential grant applicants write successful grant applications.

Love of Animals Keeps Colorado Teen Focused

At 16, Lakota Roberson has a lot of responsibility. The high school sophomore works two jobs, runs her own business, handles a full course load of classes and cares for 54 animals that she considers to be her children. By senior year she hopes to grow her animal family to 100.

Lakota, who starts her days off at 5:30 a.m. on weekends and 6 a.m. on weekdays admits, “I don’t have much down time, but when I do, I sleep.” Her first chore of the day, of course, is to take care of her animals. They consist of 40 ewes, 10 goats and four rams.

“It started out as a hobby, now it’s my job,” said Lakota. “But I love it.”

The Girl with Grit

Jaclyn Moyer's got grit.

Somewhere between the 12 hour days Jaclyn spends on her 10 acre farm in Northern California plus her off-farm baking job, she somehow found time to pen a great piece in Salon about her experiences as a new farmer.  She describes how she and her partner are struggling to balance their love of the land and passion for farming with the financial challenges of starting a new business.  "Surely many farmers enjoy what they do, as I often find pleasure in my daily tasks, but ultimately farming is work, an occupation, a means of making a living that must fulfill the basic function of a job: to provide an income,” she writes.

Couldn't have said it better myself.

Farming is a Business

The new Farm Bill has created many new tools and resources for beginning farmers and ranchers – and questions about which programs are right for their operations.

That is why I took to Google+ this month to talk about how the new Farm Bill can help new and beginning farmers and ranchers.

For the hangout, I was joined by Farm and Foreign Agriculture Service Deputy Under Secretary Karis Gutter, Agriculture Marketing Service Administrator Anne Alonzo and Natural Resources Conservation Service Assistant Chief Kirk Hanlin. Together, we shared with new and beginning farmers information about the programs and services offered by USDA through the new Farm Bill - including support for beginning farmers and ranchers by increasing funding for beginning farmer development, facilitating farmland transition to the next generation of farmers, and improving outreach and communication to military veterans about farming and ranching opportunities.

Join us for a Google+ Hangout: "What the Farm Bill Means for New Farmers" with Deputy Secretary Harden

On Tuesday, September 9th, at 3 p.m. eastern, Deputy Secretary Harden will host a Google+ Hangout to share some highlights from the new Farm Bill and discuss what this means for new and beginning farmers and ranchers.

The Agricultural Act of 2014 is important legislation that provides authorization for services and programs that impact every American and millions of people around the world. The new Farm Bill builds on historic economic gains in rural America over the past five years, while achieving meaningful reform and billions of dollars in savings for the taxpayer.  The new Farm Bill will allow USDA to continue record accomplishments on behalf of the American people, while providing new opportunity and creating jobs across rural America.

Join us for a Google+ Hangout on May 28th: What the Farm Bill Means for New Farmers

The Google+ Hangout with D/S Harden today has been temporarily postponed -- stay tuned.

In February 2014, President Obama signed the new Farm Bill into law. But what does that mean for you as a new farmer or rancher?  What’s new about this Farm Bill and what programs can you use? What questions should you be asking?

USDA is here to answer your questions.

On Wednesday, May 28th at 3 p.m. EDT Agriculture Deputy Secretary Krysta Harden will host a Google+ Hangout to discuss what the farm bill means for new farmers.