COLUMBUS — The Ohio Ecological Food and Farm Association (OEFFA) has announced its new Begin Farming Program, which will provide aspiring and new farmers in Ohio the support they need to understand what it takes to get into farming and grow their businesses.
This new program is funded by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program (BFRDP). The USDA has announced $17.8 million in grants to organizations for 37 education, mentoring, and technical assistance initiatives, included funding for OEFFA’s three year project.
“Farming is a public service. We all depend on farmers for the food we feed our families. As the farming population ages, we must invest in beginning farmers and the future of our food system,” said OEFFA Executive Director Carol Goland.
Beginning farmers face significant hurdles to success, including attaining knowledge, skills, and experience in production practices; acquiring the fundamental business planning and financial management knowledge and skills required to successfully operate a viable small business; and accessing farmland and capital as part of the substantial investment farming requires.
Agriculture is the largest component of Ohio’s economy, contributing more than $10 billion from crop and livestock sales in 2012. However, about 10 percent of small farmers exit agriculture each year and the current median age for farmers is 58. Increasing successful entry into farming and subsequent persistence in farming has significant impacts on the long-range sustainability of U.S. agriculture.
OEFFA’s new “Growing Good Farmers, Growing Good Food” program will provide skill-building educational opportunities to facilitate beginning farmers’ development as producers and small business owners. The goal is to increase the number of successful beginning farmers who operate economically viable farms and utilize organic and sustainable production practices. The project will include on-farm apprenticeships, field days, workshops, networking opportunities, business skills training, mentoring, fact sheets, a production assistance hotline, and land access services.
“This new program will allow us to comprehensively serve Ohio’s beginning farmers and help build a healthy food system that brings prosperity to family farmers, meets the growing consumer demand for local food, and safeguards the environment,” said Goland.
BFRDP was authorized by the 2014 Farm Bill, receiving $100 million to be awarded over the next five years. The program was originally funded through the 2008 Farm Bill. More than 50,000 beginning farmers and ranchers have participated in projects funded by BFRDP.