Program to aid beginning farmers receives award

PULLMAN — In order to address the needs of beginning farmers and ranchers and enhance the sustainability and competitiveness of U.S. agriculture, several western states will receive a $748,651 award from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Institute for Food and Agriculture.
WSU’s Western Center for Risk Management Education Team received the award after successfully competing for the grant from the NIFA.
To place additional emphasis on serving the beginning farmer and rancher population, the Western Center asked a group of extension economists from six states around the west to come together to collaborate on an application to the USDA Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program, said Jon Newkirk, WSU Extension economist and BFRDP leader.
“Led by WSU and Colorado State University, with university and community based organization partners from Colorado, Washington, New Mexico, Idaho, Nevada and Oregon, the Building Farmers in the West project targets and builds business planning capacity among beginning farmers by extending successes gained in Colorado and Washington pilot programs,” Newkirk said. “Beginning farmers participating in this project will learn to build and maintain economically viable operations based on the knowledge, skills, tools and experience developed through the cooperation and education from community food organizations, successful growers and Land Grant Universities in Washington, Colorado, Nevada, Idaho, New Mexico and Oregon.”
The program focuses on four activities supporting local food system-oriented producers. The first activity is identifying essential curriculum with a full peer review, the second is delivering this curriculum to producers or partner educators, the third is innovating experiential learning strategies to complement classroom lessons and the fourth is evaluating the program materials and delivery methods, said Newkirk.
The award will fund a three-year project to be used by five universities and two community-based organizations for project activities.
“Year one funding will be used to look at curriculum and materials from programs across the country and select the best or develop missing pieces of a Beginning Farmers curriculum, and then go through a peer review process for the curriculum,” Newkirk said. “Year two and three funding will be used to provide beginning farmer programs in six states, Washington, Oregon, Idaho, Colorado, Nevada and New Mexico, and to conduct a full evaluation of curriculum effectiveness, producer participant gains and overall program outcomes.”
Along with Newkirk, Jo Ann Warner of the Western Center staff, along with Mykel Tayler of the WSU School of Economic Sciences will lead the project.

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