About the Virginia Beginning Farmer & Rancher Coalition
The Virginia Beginning Farmer & Rancher Coalition (VBFRC) is a state-wide coalition of agricultural organizations and farm businesses. Our long-term goal is to improve opportunities for beginning farmers and ranchers to establish and sustain viable agricultural operations and communities in Virginia. To reach our goal, we support the development and enhancement of whole farm planning curriculum and training, online resources, social networking, and farmer mentoring. Our coalition model is a unique approach that allows us to work together to develop and implement our aims. The Coalition formed in the fall of 2010 as a way to more effectively address start-up needs of Virginia’s beginning farmers and ranchers.
Our program launched in 2010. Current program activity is aimed at accomplishing four main objectives:
- Coalition Building & Capacity Building: Establish a diverse coalition of stakeholder organizations, agencies, and groups to support the development and growth of outreach, education, training, and networking opportunities for Virginia’s beginning farmers and ranchers
- Whole Farm Planning Curriculum & Programs: Collaboratively develop and deliver whole farm planning curriculum using experiential learning and classroom delivery methods
- Social Networking and Resources: Collaboratively develop and deliver online learning tools and resources using examples of whole farm planning curriculum activity
- Farmer Mentoring: Develop and strengthen mentoring networks to facilitate the exchange of knowledge and skills of experienced farmers and ranchers with the beginning farmer and rancher community
- Participatory Program Assessment: Explore the collective impact of the VBFRCP through an analysis of the Coalition model as a community-based participatory approach to beginning farmer training and program development
Beginning Farmer Audience
We are dedicated to addressing the needs of the spectrum of beginning farmers and ranchers in Virginia. The Coalition recognizes a diversity of farming experiences, backgrounds, and aims held by Virginia beginning farmers and ranchers. From the perspective of on-farm experience: This program primarily targets:
- Prospective or Explorer Farmers: individuals interested in starting a farm or ranch. This includes next-generation farm family members as well as those who do not come from a farming background.
- Start-Up Farmers: individuals who are in the early stages of their agricultural operation.
- Re-Strategizing Farmers: farmers who are making changes to their operations after an initial period of farming. These individuals usually have increased decision-making responsibility and commitment to farming.
- Establishing Farmers: farmers who are expanding, diversifying, and stabilizing their farming operations.
- Transitioning Farmers: individuals who are family farm members who have decision making roles on the farm without having primary farm operator status. These individuals are also referred to as heritage farmers.
*Farmer categories are a modification of those referred to by the New England Small Farm Institute (for full reference, see: Sheils, C. (2004). What does the term “new farmer” mean? In Working with new farmers: Topics in professional development (pp. 4-7). Growing New Farmers, a special project of The New England Small Farm Institute.
This program follows a community-based participatory research (CBPR) approach. This is a bottom-up approach to research and program planning that aims to equitably involve partners in the process. This approach recognizes the unique strengths that each group brings to the coalition. We believe that this process helps build sustainable partnerships and services for and with beginning farmers for long-term agricultural viability.
Who Is Involved?
The coalition component of the program is collaborative in nature to adequately address the start-up needs of farmers and ranchers in Virginia. Each Coalition member has a strong record of providing outreach, education, training, and resource services to farmers and ranchers in Virginia. Coalition members share a sincere commitment to addressing whole farm planning needs through accommodating, organizational cooperation and promotion. While a strong team of collaborators exist, the Coalition welcomes the participation of other organizations to help to build a more comprehensive support structure by expanding, enhancing and sustaining services and resources.
For detailed contact information for those involved with the Virginia Beginning Farmer and Rancher Coalition Program, please see our Technical Assistance Directory.
Coalition partners represent a diverse stakeholder group:
Beginning and Established Farmers
State and Federal Government
The Coalition acts as an umbrella network of organizations to assist in the development and enhancement of VBFRC whole farming planning programs, educational resource support, service provider referrals, and networking. Coalition service providers have ample experience and real-world knowledge that beginning farmers and ranchers seek:
- Sustainable farming practices
- Whole farm business management and financial planning
- Land acquisition and tenure
- Farm safety and health
While each member may provide specific knowledge about a particular topic or need, each Coalition member ultimately shares a commitment to addressing farm-start up needs from the perspective that the farm is a “whole” that makes up many, integrated parts.
To preview more photos of Coalition member events, visit our Flickr page (Photo credit to Kelli Scott)
Advisory Group and Program Management Team
The Advisory Group of the Virginia Beginning Farmer and Rancher Coalition consists of committed individuals from the Coalition who represent both farmer and service provider perspectives in Virginia. This elected advisory group is responsible for providing input to guide program activity to best address the expressed needs of the Coalition. Advisory Group members are listed below:
- Andy Seibel, Virginia Tech and Virginia Cooperative Extension
- Anita Roberson, Botanical Bites & Provisions, LLC
- Brent Wills, Virginia Association for Biological Farming
- Jay Dunbar, River Ridge Organics
- Kyley Clevenger, Farm Credit Knowledge Center
- Marshay Privott, Virginia State University Small Farm Outreach Program
- Patrick Johnson, NANIH Farm and Garden
- Sue Erhardt, Allegheny Mountain Institute
Curriculum Writing Team
The Curriculum Writing Team is a diverse team of Coalition members that represent service providers and farmers from across the Commonwealth of Virginia. This team is currently developing whole farm planning curriculum to guide the user in a friendly format through five integrated modules: Introduction to Whole Farm Planning, Land Acquisition and Tenure, Sustainable Farming Practices, Marketing, and Holistic Business Management. The team includes:
- Amber Vallotton
- Bobby Grisso
- Bette Brand
- Christy Gabbard
- Donna Westfall-Rudd
- Gordon Groover
- Kevin Schmidt
- Kim Niewolny
- Kirk Ballin
- Linda Cronin
- Mark Schonbeck
- Pete Adamson
- Sheri Dorn
- Steve Hodges
- Theresa Nartea
- Zachary Waldron
For more information on coalition members and other beginning farmer resources, view our directory:
Virginia Beginning Farmer and Rancher Coalition Technical Assistance and Resource Directory (2013)
- Kim Niewolny, Department of Agricultural and Extension Education, Virginia Tech
- Sarah McKay, Department of Agricultural and Applied Economics, Virginia Tech
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 #2017-70011-26861, and the Southern Risk Management Education Center Grant #545015. For more information about the program or funding, contact Kim Niewolny, Program Director and Extension Specialist, at email@example.com or 540-231-5784.
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