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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, and social networking.  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 and has been active continuously to the present helping to address start up needs of Virginia’s Beginning Farmers and Ranchers

Program Objectives

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
  • 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.

Community-Based Approach

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.

Coalition partners  represent a diverse stakeholder group:

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:

  • Marketing
  • 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.

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Organizational and Decision Making Guidelines

Coalition Organizations

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
  • Eugene Triplett, Minority Veteran Farmers of the Piedmont
  • Brent Noell, Virginia State University Small Farm Outreach Program
  • Jacob Gilley, American Farmland Trust
  • Pat Banks, Allegheny Mountain Institute

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 or 540-231-4582. For other questions, contact Kim Niewolny, Program Director, at

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