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Beginning farmers: Applications open for 2015-16 Savings Incentive Program

Sep 03, 2014

AMES — Practical Farmers of Iowa is now accepting applications for the 2015-16 Savings Incentive Program.

The two-year program seeks to help beginning and aspiring farmers achieve success with their farm start-ups by pairing participants with experienced mentors; offering business plan support and the chance to save money and receive matching funds; access to learning opportunities; and connection to a network of supportive farmers.

Applications will be accepted through Oct. 3.

To access an application online, visit www.practicalfarmers.org, or call the PFI office at 515-232-5661 to request a copy through the mail. Up to 25 beginning farmers will be admitted to this fifth round of programming. Those admitted will be part of the Class of 2016, and are selected by a committee of PFI members using a scoring system that rewards a noticeable commitment to developing applicants’ independent farming goals. Selections will be made in early November.

To date, 74 beginning farmers have been or are currently active in the program.

The Savings Incentive Program works by encouraging enrollees to save up to $100 per month for two years. After 24 months and completion of all program requirements, participants will earn a dollar-for-dollar match on money saved up to $2,400, for a possible $4,800 to use toward the purchase of a farm asset.

For Jordan Scheibel, a 2013 graduate who grows chemical-free produce, herbs and flowers at Middle Way Farm near Grinnell, the Savings Incentive Program gave him the push he needed to start his own farm.

“When I joined SIP, I was on the fence about whether I actually wanted to start my own operation. But when I took the plunge, it felt like I was supposed to actually start farming. Given my doubts, it was a really needed push to get me going,” he said.

Requirements: As part of the program, participants will be paired with a mentor, with whom they must meet in-person at least three times in the first year.

Participants also:

• Open and manage a savings account with Practical Farmers’ partner bank;

• Create or fine-tune a business or whole-farm plan;

• Attend at least four PFI events per year. PFI events include online trainings, field days, conferences, workshops and more;

• Conduct quarterly reviews via email, phone or in-person with PFI staff to check on progress toward goals and program requirements;

• Complete all forms and requested information on time.

Matt Roe, a current enrollee, said he wasn’t initially looking forward to the required reviews, but had a change of heart once he saw how they helped him.

“They really help me recap my progress and look at the big picture,” said Roe, who raises berries and nursery crops with his wife at Terraceberry Farm near Allerton. “I’m learning that it’s so easy to get lost in all the to-do lists of stuff that needs to be done on a daily basis – but it’s very important to take a step back and review how things are going and if I’m still headed in the same direction I set out in.”

Eligibility: To be eligible for the Savings Incentive Program, applicants must either be farming on their own now and have farmed for five or fewer years, or have some experience working for a farm business. This includes, but is not limited to: internships, apprenticeships, working as an hourly or salaried employee or working on the family farm.

Applicants also must reside in Iowa or farm in the state (out-of-state residents are eligible, so long as they are farming in Iowa), and be members of Practical Farmers of Iowa. Those who are not currently members can join at www.practicalfarmers.org or by calling 515- 232-5661.

For questions about the Savings Incentive Program or application process, contact Sally Worley at 515-232-5661 or sally@practicalfarmers.org.

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