Lake Superior Sustainable Farming Association utilized a whole farm planning approach that included ecological, economic and social perspectives to create a comprehensive, farmer-taught training program for beginning farmers that built skills in goal-setting, business development, financial management, and low-cost sustainable production techniques. The Farm Beginnings™ curriculum challenged participants to think holistically about operations, reduced risk by increasing production and business knowledge, and allowed for networking with farmer educators and peers. The program reached 12 farm units (units consisted of individuals and some couples) recruited from NE MN and NW WI. Participants completed and presented a strategic business plan, market assessment, and a Holistic Goal™. Homework included personal financial analysis, financial goal-setting, and enterprise planning. Graduates pursuing farm goals and actualizing businesses are understanding agricultural risks while having tools and know-how to carefully manage risks. Networking has continued past graduation. From a per session and risk education evaluation standpoint, the program was a success, with significant movement towards farming goals. During the programmatic year, 9 of the 12 farm units actualized farm enterprises; of those, 3 bought farmland, 1 moved back to their family farm, 1 leased farmland, and 1 was accepted into a farm incubator. While the actualization of farms and the movement towards goals has been encouraging to observe, graduates face a continuum of gathering education and experience as beginning farmers. With that, post program results need to be measured over a 2-10 year period to truly understand results and the impact this program provides. That said, it is clear that graduates are making better decisions, mitigating risks, and are more prepared to farm.
Number of Participants: 12
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REPORTS & EVALUATIONS
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