Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Practical Farmers of Iowa, Part 1

Interview with Luke Gran, Practical Farmers of Iowa, Part 1

Founded in 1985, Practical Farmers of Iowa includes a diverse group of 2,000 farmers and friends of farmers. The organization’s mission is to advance profitable, ecologically sound, and community-enhancing approaches to agriculture through farmer-led investigation and information sharing. Below is acquisitions editor Catherine Cocks’s interview with Luke Gran, the coordinator of PFI’s Next Generation program.

Catherine: Can you briefly describe the Next Generation program and tell me why it’s needed?

Luke: The Next Generation program was developed in response to PFI members’ requests for more support in dealing with their children’s wish to come home and farm with them. Farmers wanted to share with each other their struggles and successes in making this happen. Established with seventy-five beginning farmers in our membership, it has now grown to include 1,300 beginning farmers in Iowa and continues to grow each month by about thirty beginners. Now the majority of people involved in the program tell us they are not the children of farmers. They’re new farmers without that rich family background and experience to draw from who are looking to network with other farmers.
        Keep in mind, if there’s no place for beginning farmers, if we don’t support and encourage them to explore their diverse farm business dreams, we will have a stark rural landscape, without a lot of humans in it—just a limited number of families with the large equipment that is necessary to support the production of corn or soybeans. Add in clusters of animal confinement complexes from county to county. So much of Iowa’s cultural identity depends on us creating space for families to continue farming, and this means ensuring the generational transition and conveying knowledge. Even if you don’t farm, think about your favorite recipes or meals or season—our food is very intimately tied to humans on the land, living with natural cycles. Farmers are key part of that. So think about what we could lose if there is no new generation of farmers.

Catherine: What are the top three obstacles to getting started as a farmer?

Luke: The most recent information we have is from a March 2012 survey. As of last year, beginning farmers listed marketing as their top challenge, followed by production issues, financing (access to capital), pricing farm products, and financial recordkeeping.

More Information: Farming's New Faces

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