The Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program (BFRDP) sponsored by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has provided critical support and resources for countless beginning farmers and ranchers for nearly a decade.
Why does that matter?
Because not only are we losing farms, we’re losing farmers. Who’s going to take over the age-old responsibility of feeding the world? The answer to that seems simple, but it’s not.
New farmers today have different needs and face significant barriers, beginning with something as simple as affordable access to the most basic necessity: land. To ensure the continued success of agriculture in the U.S., it is vital that we arm the next generation with the skills they need to succeed in agriculture. That’s what BFRDP is all about.
With nearly a decade-long track record, is BFRDP working?
In partnership with USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture, the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition (NSAC) has conducted the first-ever comprehensive evaluation of the program. Organic Valley representatives served on the advisory team that led to the recent release of NSAC’s report, Cultivating the Next Generation, which reveals the impact this unique program has had since it first received funding in the 2008 Farm Bill.
The report found that BFRDP-funded projects are showing real outcomes. Over half of their participants are now engaged in a farming career, and nearly three-quarters of them felt more prepared for a successful career in agriculture following program completion. Other key report findings include:
- More than 60,000 beginning farmers have been impacted directly by BFRDP projects.
- Almost all projects focused on farmers in their first five years of farming.
- More than half of all projects served socially disadvantaged farmers.
- More than 90 percent of projects included farm business management training, and more than a third helped new farmers access land and capital.
- More than two-thirds of projects offered intensive programs, lasting months or even several years, designed to move aspiring farmers quickly into production.
Organic Valley couldn’t be more delighted by the success of this program. The cooperative has long recognized this threat to the future of agriculture and implemented its own in-house support program for young farmers among its membership seeking to grow into organic agriculture.
The cooperative’s Generation Organic farmers (Gen-Os, ages 18 through 36), build and inspire a community of engaged young farmers who envision elevating the status of organic farming to a noble and desirable profession. They are a testament to organic agriculture as a fulfilling, viable career and lifestyle. Within the cooperative, they are an active, visible community that is fully supported, highly respected and deeply valued.
We feel confident that with both government and business recognition of and support for these crucial efforts, the next generation of farmers will thrive.