The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Rural Development Under Secretary Lisa Mensah announced funding to a new project supporting beginning farmers in the five counties of Allamakee, Chickasaw, Clayton, Fayette, and Winneshiek.
USDA Rural Development awarded the Winneshiek Agricultural Extension District $24,570 to convene the Northeast Iowa Beginning Farmer Network. Organized by Kayla Koether, Food Systems Specialist for Iowa State University Extension and Outreach in Region 4, the regional network will support new farmers who are adding value to their products by marketing food to local consumers, restaurants, and institutions or utilizing niche markets.
Beginning farmers who are managing farm produce inventory and direct-to-customer sales have a distinct set of challenges. To add to those challenges, they are often only one of a handful of farms or businesses in their communities establishing a local food market. While creating something new can be exciting, it can also be isolating.
“Our goal is to provide value-added beginning farmers with the social network and business skills they need to succeed and grow their farms. This network will provide opportunities for new farmers to meet peers in the region, share ideas, identify the business skills and resources they need, and learn those skills together. We’re thrilled that USDA Rural Development is supporting this work” says Koether.
This project will bring together farmers from around the region for regular networking and learning events. Group members will choose speakers and educational opportunities to sharpen their business acumen, and learn from established farmers direct-marketing in the region. As a result, these locally grown food businesses will improve their business management and food safety knowledge, and broaden their professional networks.
All aspiring and beginning local food farmers in the region are welcome to participate in the network. Please contact Kayla Koether at email@example.com or 563-382-2949 for more information.