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How Well are Farmers Needs Being Addressed?


Based on a regional investigation, collaborating organizations published a Directory of programs and services for Northeast new farmers. They concluded, however, that current programs and policies are inadequate to address the needs of new farmers. Gaps is services exist along several dimensions:

  • Targeted vs. relevant programming: Targeted programs are specifically developed for and offered to new farmers. Workshops on farm start-up or finding land are considered targeted. Relevant programs and services are not specifically designed for new farmers. Some relevant programs, for example, a course on Integrated Pest Management, may be valuable to new farmers. A general farm business planning course, on the other hand, will not be very useful to a new farmer without a financial or market history. There are very few targeted new farmer programs.
  • New farmer audiences: Programs may be directed to a particular type of new farmer ("explorers" or those from Asian backgrounds, for example). Some programming will be appropriate for all types of new farmers. However, some programming excludes certain categories of new farmers. Several loan programs, for example, require at least three years' experience.
  • Program accessibility: Not all types of programs are available in all parts of the Northeast. Geographic accessibility is one important variable. The type of delivery is important too. Classroom-and-credit? Weekend workshop? Distance learning? On-farm experience? New farmers vary greatly in their learning preferences. Outreach is critical. New farmers need timely information about services and programs.
  • Program content: There are several major categories of programming for new farmers: introductory; access to land; hands-on skills development; production; financial and credit services; marketing; business planning and management; and special interest. Some are targeted, and others are relevant (see above). On-farm apprentice networks exist throughout the region, but they vary as to the training they provide. Similarly, high school and college courses may be more or less useful to the prospective or beginning farmer. For more information, please see our publication, Gaps in New Farmer Programs and Services. You will find it, along with many other interesting publications, on our Tools & Resources page.
  • Collaborating organizations were: FarmNet/Cornell University (NY), Pennsylvania Farm Link, Rutgers University (NJ), and the New England Small Farm Institute (MA). They sponsored focus groups, reports and several new farmer pilot initiatives under the Northeast New Farmer Network project.