Aug 28, 2023
By Laura Smith
Networking and learning are important in any business, but especially to young farmers starting their operations. Young farmers looking to build their knowledge, skills and farming businesses have several options thanks to well-known programs supported by organizations focused on farmers. Below are a few opportunities for young farmers to build leadership skills and their farming operations while connecting with peers and others in the industry.
The Young Farmers and Ranchers program of the Farm Bureau has both a national level program through the American Farm Bureau Federation and state-level programs through state farm bureaus. The Young Farmers and Ranchers Program is focused on creating well-rounded farmers who are skilled at and comfortable advocating for agriculture. Beyond business development and networking, this program offers public speaking, media training and advocacy.
“AFBF’s Young Farmer and Rancher program is an outstanding opportunity for young agriculturalists to grow into strong leaders by expanding their personal and professional network, deepening their knowledge of all facets of agriculture and participating in advanced advocacy training," says Matt Fimon, AFBF Young Farmer and Rancher chair and first-generation farmer from Virginia.
For more information, visit AFBF’s website at FB.org or contact your state’s farm bureau.
American Farmland Trust is addressing the issue of disappearing farmland and aging farmers. By using tools to protect farmland from development, connecting new farmers with farmland and training farmers in regenerative farming practices and business management, AFT is part of a movement to ensure the future of farming.
Finding land to farm is a recognized and major barrier to new farmers getting started. To help connect new farmers with farmland, the AFT Farm Legacy Program accepts donations of farmland that is either leased or sold at an affordable price to qualified operators who will continue to farm the land.
For more information, visit Farmland.org.
The Farm Foundation’s Young Farmer Accelerator Program uses interaction, learning and networking to help young farmers build skills in business, agriculture and government issues. In addition to building relationships with peers, participants in this program take part in learning with a mentor, giving young farmers the chance to learn from people who have been in the business.
“The Young Farmer Accelerator Program offers participants the opportunity to expand their food and agriculture network by connecting them with a mentor, other young farmers and industry leaders,” says Jenna Wicks, Farm Foundation program manager.
For more information, visit FarmFoundation.org.
As a group focused on empowering the next generation of farmers, the National Young Farmers Coalition works to shape policy and help support new and beginning farmers. The organization’s priorities include land access, equity, climate, water access, immigration and labor, mental health and more. The National Young Farmers Coalition provides training for new farmers, as well. This includes training on federal programs and finding farmland. In addition, these trainings are held in multiple ways, including online and in-person. Depending upon qualifications, farmers can join the coalition for as little as $1 per year.
For more information, visit YoungFarmers.org.
In addition to these robust programs, there are numerous resources for young and beginning farmers to access financing, learn about local farming practices and more. Check out some of the organizations listed below.