Harvesting Our Potential(SM)

Women are entering farming in increasing numbers—up 30 percent between 2002 and 2007—while the overall number of new farmers in the US is declining. We believe this trend will change the face of American agriculture for the better. Women tend to enter farming to raise food, rather than commodity crops. They begin small rural enterprises that operate in sustainable ways—sustainable for their families, for their communities, and for the environment.

WFAN has supported women in sustainable agriculture since 1997. One of our most important programs has been Harvesting Our Potential(SM), an internship program that places young women who want to become farmers on working Iowa farms with experienced farmer mentors for 8 to 12 weeks during the growing season.

These internships are invaluable to both the farmers and the interns. Farmers receive able, willing help during the busiest time of the year on their farms, and the opportunity to share their experiences and knowledge with the next generation of women farmers. Interns get hands-on experience with horticulture, livestock, food handling, marketing, and all other aspects of farming for a living. Often, interns stay in touch with their mentors for many years, sharing successes and challenges as they build their careers in farming and food systems in and outside of Iowa. Harvesting Our Potential(SM) is supported by foundation grants and by gifts from donors like you.

About the Iowa-Nebraska BFRDP Project

“Harvesting Our Potential” Beginning Farmer Project 2012 – 2015

Aspiring, beginning and experienced women farmers in Iowa and Nebraska will get support and training over the next three years from Women, Food and Agriculture Network as they turn their farming dreams into reality. WFAN is one of 40 organizations that received a 2012 USDA Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Grant (BFRDP), announced Aug. 30, 2012, by USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack at the Farm Progress Show in Boone, IA.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe grant of $401,802 will support beginning and aspiring women farmers in Iowa and Nebraska over the next three years by providing them with business planning assistance, networking them with other beginners, and providing them with mentoring relationships with established women farmers in the region.

The grant will also take the mentoring program one step farther, by providing mentor farmers with training in risk management and best practices in educating mentees.

“WFAN has been working with women farmers for 15 years, and we’ve witnessed an enormous surge in numbers over the past decade,” says Adcock. “We’re thrilled to be able to help new and aspiring women farmers in Iowa and Nebraska reach their farm business goals with the help of this grant.”

Click on the links at the top of this page for more information on opportunities available through this grant project for aspiring, beginning and experienced women farmers in Iowa and Nebraska.

The BFRDP is one of the most important programs of the Food, Farm and Jobs Act (farm bill), and WFAN members all across the US have benefited from prior and current projects. “I urge WFAN members to contact your members of Congress today and tell them you want to see BFRDP preserved and expanded in the next farm bill,” Adcock said.

BFRDP is targeted especially to collaborative local, state, and regionally based networks and partnerships to support financial Maria and Perry-O smallerand entrepreneurial training, risk management education, marketing strategies, mentoring and apprenticeship programs, “land link” programs, innovative farm transfer and transition practices, and education and outreach activities to assist beginning farmers and ranchers across the country.

This project is supported by the Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program of the National Institute of Food and Agriculture, USDA, Grant # 2012-49400-19573. To find more resources and programs for beginning farmers and ranchers please visit www.Start2Farm.gov, a component of the Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program.