Support for beginning farmers

Iowa State University Extension and Outreach

Kayla Koether
Food System Specialist

ISU Extension is increasing its support for beginning farmers. Two opportunities for farmers in northeast Iowa were recently announced.
The Northeast Iowa Beginning Farmer Network is a regional effort supporting new farmers who are adding value to their products by marketing food to local consumers, restaurants and institutions or utilizing niche markets. Beginning farmers who are managing farm produce inventory and direct-to-customer sales have a distinct set of challenges. To add to those challenges, they are often only one of a handful of farms or businesses in their communities establishing a local food market. While creating something new can be exciting, it can also be isolating.

Supported by a USDA Rural Business Development Grant, this project will bring together farmers from around the region for regular networking and learning events. The group will choose speakers and educational opportunities, and learn from established farmers direct-marketing in the region. Contact Kayla Koether for more information, 563-382-2949.

The Start to Farm: New Farmer Learning Network, organized by Iowa State University Extension and Outreach, is a statewide program designed to provide education and support for beginning and early-career agricultural producers. Start to Farm groups will meet several times throughout the year. Based on priorities and topics determined by each group they will discuss production techniques, ways to grow and improve business practices, and farm management strategies.

Multiple groups will be organized throughout the state, with beginning farmers able to join a group that will be most beneficial to them through either a focus on farm enterprises or geography. Group members will participate in a wide variety of activities, including touring successful farming operations. They also will become part of a community of Iowa beginning farmers.

The goal is to provide an open atmosphere for discussion, sharing of ideas and learning about resources for producers who are in their first 10-12 years of farming. Each group will have its own focus depending on the needs of its members.

Registration for the program is requested, but there is no participation fee. Groups will be facilitated by ISU Extension specialists. Contact an ISU Extension county office for information about a local group. Three groups are available in northeast Iowa at this time:

Group 3: Winneshiek County - Jenn Bentley, Dairy;, 563-382-2949
Group 5: Fayette County - Mark Storlie, Swine;, 563-425-3331
Group 6: Dubuque County - Larry Tranel, Dairy;, 563-425-3331.

The groups are funded by an ISU Extension and Outreach grant through the USDA Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program. For more information, visit the ISU Extension and Outreach Start to Farm website at