In June of 2021, the Virginia Beginning Farmer & Rancher Coalition (VBFRC) disseminated $12,000 of mini-grant funds to Coalition partner organizations for four 2021 programming opportunities aimed at supporting the next generation of farmers and ranchers in Virginia. These mini-grant funds are meant to assist VBFRC organizations in supporting the goals of the Coalition while increasing their capacity to either initiate new or enhance existing programming projects designed to support place-based and culturally-appropriate education, training, and networking opportunities for Virginia’s beginning farmers. Funds support expenses directly related to the implementation of the project such as travel expenses, human resources, and educational related materials.
Mini-grant projects illustrate new and enhanced programming opportunities to be implemented across the Commonwealth in 2021. These projects reflect a number of capacity building and farmer-led approaches. Topics these projects address include: youth education; women in agriculture; building farm skills and experience; training resources for low-literacy farmers; farmland access; and micro-dairy farming.
Projects funded by the 2021-2022 VBFRC mini-grants are listed below.
Sharing and Demonstrating the Benefits of Vermicomposting on the Farm with Virginia New and Beginning Farmers
Anita Roberson, firstname.lastname@example.org
Project Description: The Minority and Veteran Farmers of the Piedmont and Botanical Bites and Provisions, LLC will demonstrate and promote the benefits of vermicomposting as a natural cost-effective method of recycling organic matter, like garden and common kitchen waste and transforming it into productive soil amendments by creating worm farm stations (sites). Vermicomposting sites will be created to visibly display how this important network of living things in the soil work synergistically to aid plants to thrive, so that new and beginning farmers, especially socially disadvantaged farmers (beginning farmer audience funds will be allocated to serve), are able to see how this technique can also make a valuable impact in their vegetable production and prevent the often-needless added expense of relying on store-bought amendments. A workshop will be offered for 20-25 farmers at the Carver Center to help participants get started with vermicomposting.
Independence Farmers Market Winter Workshop Enhancement Project
Michelle Pridgen, email@example.com
Project Description: In 2013, The Independence Farmers Market (IFM), a subsidiary of Grayson LandCare (GLC), and a member of the Virginia Beginning Farmer and Rancher Coalition (VBFRC), faced a dilemma –area produce growers couldn’t match increasing customer demand which limited the market’s growth capacity. Faced with this “good-problem-to-have” challenge, market staff developed a robust education program to not only assist new and existing producers to increase capacity, but to also encourage home gardeners to join the ranks of market producer/vendor. At the center of this education program were workshops branded as the “IFM Winter Workshop Series" that focused on how to select, grow and harvest vegetables in southwest Virginia, for maximum yield. Over its six year history, the market has hosted 20 workshops, with 412 attendees.
In 2020, the pandemic struck and though they were able to hold early classes in 2020, the 2021 classes were cancelled in the interest of public safety. This inspired IFM to digitize parts of their workshop curriculum to expand accessibility. Through this mini-grant project, the IFM will formalize the Winter Workshop Series curriculum and digitize portions of the courseware to support web-based training, focusing on the 2-hour "Grow More Vegetables" module.
Beginning Farmer Track at the 22nd Annual Virginia Biological Farming Conference
Lindsay Newsome, firstname.lastname@example.org
Project Description: The Virginia Association for Biological Farming (VABF) is offering a Beginning Farmer Track at the 22nd annual Virginia Biological Farming Conference, January 22-24, 2022 at The Hotel Roanoke in Roanoke, Virginia. The Beginning Farmer Track will directly support startup farmers, re-strategizing farmers, and establishing farmers. Through existing partnerships and promotion to VABF’s vast Virginia farmer network, they aim to provide training and education to beginning farmers in sustainable farming practices and whole farm planning at the 22nd annual Conference.
Educating Realtors on Agricultural Production and Conservation Opportuntieis to Develop New and Beginning Farmers
Brad Jarvis, email@example.com
Project Description: Current census data indicates that average farm income after expenses is below poverty level. The situation has resulted in the next generation obtaining jobs off the farm that in most cases provide better pay and family stability. Therefore, we must prepare to train the new generation of farm owners. This new generation of farmers is buying farms to begin their second career in agriculture. A large portion of these new farm owners are interested in cattle, horses, small ruminants, local food production, and specialty crops.
Virginia Cooperative Extension (VCE) in cooperation with the Culpeper Soil and Water Conservation District (CSWCD), will sponsor a training session for area realtors and real estate appraisers. The purpose of the program is to invite realtors to serve as a bridge between new landowners and agencies that provide agriculture and conservation resources and assistance. Realtors are the first line of contact with potential landowners in the region and need the background knowledge in agriculture, conservation and open space preservation to advise new landowners to the approriate resources and advisors (such as VCE & CSWCD) to help them make land managmenet decisions. The final target Extension audience would be new landowenrs in the Culpeper district seeking to develop and/or start a small farm business.
The Virginia Beginning Farmer & Rancher Coalition is a state-wide and coalition-based Extension program, housed in Virginia Tech’s Department of Agricultural, Leadership, and Community Education. Funding was sponsored by the Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program (BFRDP) of the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) Award #2020-49400-32326. For more information about the program, contact Katie Trozzo, Program Coordinator, at firstname.lastname@example.org or 540-231-4582. For other questions, contact Kim Niewolny, Program Director, at email@example.com.
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