Building a secure and independent food system requires land, money and people with a passion for growing healthy produce. Creating vegetable farms—of all shapes and sizes and in all kinds of locations—provides a great start.
Finding funds to start farming is the first challenge. That’s because regular lending institutions—banks, credit unions and others—typically don’t make loans to beginning farmers. Farmers need money to buy or rent land and to purchase seeds, supplies and equipment.
The Farm Service Agency (FSA), the source of farming information and farm loans from the USDA (U.S. Department of Agriculture), offers programs that help beginning farmers buy land. But to qualify, you must show that you have three years of farm management experience, and you must provide the records of the profits made by the farm while it was under your care. If you don’t own or have access to land, these requirements are nearly impossible to meet.
Currently, Iowa’s vegetable producers mainly hire farm hands—seasonal help—because they don’t have the time or money to hire a farm manager and pay a living wage.
To meet the USDA’s call for 10,000 new farmers every year, we recognize that our next generation of farmers will be people who come from urban backgrounds. That means they need the assets and training to access the capital and land to get started. And we want to help them earn a living wage while gaining valuable farm management experience—the kind that helps new farmers qualify for beginning farmer loans. At Feed Iowa First, we believe such situations present great opportunities. And we have a plan for change—starting in Linn County.
By becoming a farmer with Feed Iowa First, you benefit from: