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UCCE helps beginning farmers grow their businesses

The Issue

Beginning farmers often struggle to gain access to equipment, land, credit and markets. They often need to learn sound business practices and accumulate years of experience to move forward. The UCCE Farmer Individual Development Account program is helping beginning farmers develop a learning network, write business plans, and have successful experiences so they can grow their farm businesses.

What Has ANR Done?

Humboldt County UC Cooperative Extension coordinated the Farmers Individual Development Account program with several other local agencies. This business development model has been used before with homebuyers and other small businesses; this program was the first in the county for farmers. The non-profit California FarmLink spearheaded the movement to use this program with farmers. The UCCE advisor worked with other agencies to open the way for farmers to participate. She developed workshops specifically for farm business planning and created a learning community with the new farmers and experienced farmers. Participants put $100 per month in savings accounts and attended workshops for 18 months (with a break for the growing season). At the end of the program their savings were matched 2:1 for a capital improvement for their farm. The UCCE farm advisor was available for consultation on a myriad of other agricultural topics.

The Payoff

Beginning farmers supported

As a result of this project, all eight farmers developed a strong network among themselves and with a farmer-mentor in a non-competitive mode. They completed the educational part of the program. The participants wrote business plans and attended financial planning workshops, met personnel from many agencies available to help them, and created a savings plan towards a major purchase. Three farmers met the savings program and were awarded a matching grant. One built a mist system for starting plants, one bought a rototiller and the third bought materials for planting beds and a cold frame. (Matching grant funds are from private foundations supporting the program.)The UCCE advisor developed a strong support network with new farmers. The farmers are now growing a variety of crops and selling both on the internet and at farmers markets.

Clientele Testimonial

"I was able to buy a new propagation table with a mist system for my nursery. I really enjoyed meeting with the other farmers, exchanging ideas, learning the financial planning I needed, and learning more about UC Cooperative Extension." Tina G.


Supporting Unit: Humboldt County Office

Deborah Giraud, ddgiraud@ucanr.edu