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Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program

NIFA Programs Salute and Assist Veterans and their Families

Whether protecting our nation and its highest ideals with military service or ensuring a safe, abundant, and nutritious food supply as veterans, we are grateful for their willingness to serve.

For more than 35 years, USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) and the U.S. Departments of Defense and Veteran Affairs have collaborated to support those who support America – the U.S. military Veterans and their families. These collaborations have helped thousands of military families gain access to the high quality educational programs in early childhood education, youth development, community capacity and related fields that land-grant university cooperative extension services provide.

Beginning Farmers and Ranchers Find One-Stop Shop in Farm Answers

The following guest blog from a web communications coordinator at the University of Minnesota's Center for Farm Financial Management highlights the FarmAnswers.org information clearinghouse for new and beginning farmers and ranchers. Farm Answers is a vital element of the USDA-wide effort to make it easier for people to find USDA programs and services.

By Jeff Reisdorfer, University of Minnesota

(The U.S. Department of Agriculture on April 11 opened a new information clearinghouse for new agriculture producers, FarmAnswers.org.)

Farmers and ranchers, like owners of other start-up companies, face serious challenges, including the need for easy to access, reliable information and technical assistance for getting their businesses started.

FarmAnswers.org is a website clearinghouse where farmers and ranchers can find online courses, videos, presentations, apps, and other materials – more than 3,175 at this time – to answer farming and ranching questions.  FarmAnswers is supported by a grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) through its Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program (BFRDP).

USDA Programs Help Ease Transition to Farming, One Vet at a Time

Located three miles east of Vale, South Dakota, on Cox Farms, Cox Sweet Corn is produced by veteran Kyle Cox, who left the Army after 12 years to return to the family farm.

In 2013, Cox separated from the Army to begin his family’s future in agriculture. With 700 acres, the farm produces alfalfa, corn, and more than 2,000 head of cattle.  To help make the most of his agricultural opportunities, Cox took advantage of veteran-focused training funded by U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA).  The training is part of USDA-wide effort to support veteran farmers.

Behind the Scenes of the Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food Initiative: Jill Auburn

This month, the Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food initiative (KYF2) celebrates an important milestone: the sixth anniversary of the first convening of the KYF2 Task Force. Since 2009, the Task Force, a dedicated team of experts from across the Department, has been hard at work in support of USDA’s commitment to local and regional food systems. As we mark this important milestone, we wanted to recognize some of the outstanding USDA employees who have been at the core of this work.

Jill Auburn, National Program Leader at USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) and manager of the Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program, has been part of the KYF2 Task Force since the beginning. Jill came to USDA in 1998 and has seen the Department’s work on local food evolve. Jill describes the launch of the Task Force as a recognition that “the world has been doing this [local food], and USDA needs to engage. We aren’t the lead on this – our work is being driven by what’s happening in communities around the country – but USDA has a lot of tools to assist.”  The 2008 and 2014 Farm Bills have given USDA many tools and authorities to support local and regional food systems.

Boosting Farm Profits and the Ag Industry in the U.S. Virgin Islands

The U.S. Virgin Islands hardly ever experience temperatures below 68 degrees Fahrenheit, which allows vegetation to flourish year-round. Even so, 90-95 percent of the food consumed on the islands is imported, and less than 1 percent of the territory’s gross domestic product comes from agriculture.  That may soon change.

A three-year Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program (BFRDP) project at the University of the Virgin Islands (UVI) – supported by a grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) – works with crop and small livestock farmers who have less than 10 years of experience. Program graduates report an 81 percent increase in productivity and an 80 percent increase in profitability.

Beginning Farmer Kick Starts Operation to Provide Local Produce Year-Round

It’s been two years since Regina Villari, of Sewell, N.J., stepped into unchartered territory. Her idea was so different that no one else in her New Jersey town was doing it.

“I was intrigued by the operation,” said Villari. “I always wanted to have my own business and I wanted to do something in the local community that could provide fresh, local produce all year round.”

That something turned out to be a hydroponic greenhouse. Hydroponics uses nutrient-rich water instead of soil to grow lettuce, herbs, tomatoes and other vegetables.  The greenhouse allows Villari to grow the crops year round, feeding thousands of people throughout the state.

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.

NIFA and the Farm Bill: A Year Later

February 7 marks the first anniversary of the Agriculture Act of 2014, commonly known as the 2014 Farm Bill. This milestone provides an opportunity to report on the National Institute of Food and Agriculture’s (NIFA) efforts during the last year to implement the many provisions of relevance to the agency.  Here are a few of the more significant provisions that have been implemented:

Local Food Leaders Take a Break to Hang Out

What do Tristan Reader of Tohono O’odham Community Action (TOCA), Amy Bacigalupo of the Land Stewardship Project in Minnesota, Haile Johnston of Common Market in Philadelphia and Michael Todd’s environmental studies class at Ames High School in Ames, IA have in common? They’re all building connections between farms and consumers and creating strong local food systems in their communities.  And all joined me for a Google+ Hangout – a live, virtual panel – on Thursday, November 21 to discuss their work.

There is amazing energy surrounding the development of local food systems in communities nationwide, and our discussion certainly reflected that. But it also came at a time of uncertainty. Congress has yet to pass a Food, Farm and Jobs bill, the major piece of legislation funding USDA’s local food efforts (along with many other critical programs). Until a bill is passed, many of the key resources for producers, businesses and communities engaged in local food systems are without funding. That reality lent a sense of urgency to some of the topics we discussed.

Chicago Botanic Garden Sprouts New Beginnings for Individuals and Communities

Aaron Serrano was 15 years-old when he was charged with a felony and sentenced as an adult to two years in a Chicago-area prison. Today, at age 18, he has a full-time job at FarmedHere, an aquaponics agricultural producer in Chicago, where his boss calls him “a treasure.”

Serrano’s transformation from a troubled teenager into a well-trained agricultural professional wouldn’t have been possible without the opportunities given to him by the Chicago Botanic Garden’s Windy City Harvest, which runs a Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program (BFRDP) project funded by the USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA).