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 part 2 of acquisitions editor Catherine Cocks’s interview with Luke Gran, the coordinator of PFI’s Next Generation program. In our first post on this interview (June 12), Luke Gran said that marketing and production are the two biggest challenges facing new farmers.
Catherine: What are the marketing challenges?
Luke: Folks in the PFI beginning farmer network grow diverse crops and target diverse markets, from farmers’ markets to community-supported agriculture to grocers to brokers on the Chicago Board of Trade. All of them want to know how to build or maintain their customer base or how to make prudent selling decisions in commodity markets.
Catherine: And the production challenges?
Luke: In terms of production, 33 percent of our beginning farmers are focused on horticulture, but the knowledge of how to produce highly productive, diverse vegetable crops of high quality is lacking in Iowa because of the dominance of investments in research and market infrastructure for corn and soybeans over the past several decades. So this is knowledge that farmers are reacquiring now through experience and networking with other farmers. Another 20 percent of our beginning farmers are growing grain and raising livestock in integrated farm systems, and 15 percent of them are grazing livestock on grass-based systems. The knowledge of these systems also has also been lost as markets shifted and support in Iowa for these practices dwindled over the past half century.In general, new farmers face challenges in getting access to capital and land, developing comprehensive business plans, and finding or building adequate infrastructure for livestock and processing.
More information: Farming's New Faces