AMES, Iowa - Practical Farmers of Iowa is now accepting applications from beginning farmers for its 2013-2014 Savings Incentive Program. The two-year program pairs beginning farmers with experienced mentors and offers beginners the chance to save money and receive matching funds while learning how to build a profitable farm.
Up to 25 beginning farmers will be admitted in this third round of the Savings Incentive Program, which seeks to support the next generation of farmers and foster use of ecologically sound and community-enhancing approaches to agriculture. Applications will be accepted now through October 12, 2012. To access an application online, visit www.practicalfarmers.org and navigate to "Next Generation," then "Savings Incentive Program," or call the PFI office at 515.232.5661 to request a copy through the mail.
The Savings Incentive Program works by encouraging enrollees to save $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 towards the purchase of a productive farm asset.
Requirements: As part of the program, participants will be paired with a mentor, with whom they must meet at least three times in the first year. Participants must also open and make regular deposits to a separate bank savings account; attend at least four PFI events per year (online, on-farm or in person); create or fine-tune a business plan; and check in quarterly with PFI's Savings Incentive Program coordinator to keep on track with defined goals.
"One of the main reasons I applied was for accountability," says Erin Wilson, a 2012 recipient who operates an organic dairy and raises sheep and custom-grazed cattle near Paullina. "I enjoy planning, but I never seem to get to the point where it is useful to farm management sometimes I get bogged down in unhelpful details. The Savings Incentive Program is already providing incentive, structure and accountability, which I am very thankful for."
Nathan Anderson, a recipient from the inaugural 2011 class, has a cow-calf enterprise and raises corn and soybeans near Cherokee. He says he particularly appreciated the program's integration and mentor support: "The mentorship is invaluable to any beginning farmer, even those with an ag degree. There is also the savings match, the business plan support and the PFI events that expose beginners to a world of farm knowledge. That is the real benefit of the program that it includes all those aspects that tie it together to give beginners a real leg up."
Eligibility: To be eligible for the Savings Incentive Program, applicants must be farming now and have farmed for five or fewer years; reside in Iowa or farm in the state; and be members of Practical Farmers of Iowa (candidates can join at www.practicalfarmers.org or by calling 515.232.5661). A review panel of PFI members will evaluate and rank applications.
For questions about the Savings Incentive Program or application process, contact Marc Strobbe, PFI farm viability coordinator, at 515.232.5661 or firstname.lastname@example.org.