North Central SARE From the Field Profile
Farm Dreams Take Shape for Farm Beginnings Student
Beginning farmers in South Dakota have an opportunity to learn first-hand about lowcost, sustainable methods of farming and gather the tools to successfully launch a farm enterprise thanks to Dakota Rural Action’s Farm Beginnings program.
In 2009 Tonya Haigh and Frank James with Dakota Rural Action submitted a proposal for an NCR-SARE Researchand Education Grant and were awarded $25,000 to evaluate and refine the Farm Beginnings platform, which was developed by the Land Stewardship Project, in order to meet the unique needs of beginning farmersand ranchers in SD. As a result, the SD BeginningFarmer Training and Linking project was developed to build an educational network for beginning farmers in SD.
Eleven families graduated from the 2009-2010 SDBeginning Farmer Training and Linking Program in August 2010. They received 36 hours of classroom instruction on holistic decision making, developing long and short term plans, financial planning, marketing, building a business plan, sustainable farming methods, and connecting to resources. Students were able to participate in Farm Tours and Skills Sessions offered. Five participating families pursued formal mentorship experiences or were employed by established farmers during the course. The SD Farmer Network facilitated informal mentorship for the rest of the participants by providing the opportunity for students to contact established farmers informally to ask advice, seek guidance,or troubleshoot farm-related issues. Dakota Rural Action’ staff writer Heidi Kolbeck-Urlacher, recorded testimonials from the programs’ graduates. Below is an excerpt of Ann and Josh Hauglid’s story.
Out at Anne and Josh Hauglid’s 12-acre farm there isanticipation in the air. The Wentworth couple’s buildingsand pastures are mostly empty for now (save fora small herd of bulls from Josh’s Dad’s farm and a fewfarmyard pets, such as their rooster, horse, and twodogs), but change is coming. A farm dream has takenshape in the couple’s mind and they are now takingsteps to see this come true.
Anne enrolled in the Farm Beginnings program last year, and has been attending twice a month farmerled training classes in Brookings since October. The decision to take the Farm Beginnings class came froma desire to “see what farming is all about” said Anne. She wanted to gather information about farm management, connect with resources, and learn about newfaming ideas. Her husband Josh comes from a farmbackground and Anne has a degree in Horticulture, so rural living and farming has always appealed to them, but prior to taking the course they hadn’t developed a specific idea and plan for their farming enterprise.
Through the course Anne was able to connect with other farm families who were in the process of defining theirfarm goals, as well as meet established farmers who ledthe classes and taught subject areas like Whole FarmPlanning, Financial Management, Marketing, BusinessPlanning, and Connecting with Resources. Anne said it was really good to meet other people who aregoing through the same struggles, and to recognize the different places each of the students are at in their farm operation. She was also impressed by the levelof authenticity and transparency offered by the coursepresenters. “Where else can you see another farmer’s books?” she asked.
Anne says the class spurred a lot of dialogue between her and her husband and prompted them to begin thinking about the farm as a whole, rather than just an enterprise. “The farm isn’t just the business, it’s made up of everything—you, your family, your lifestyle, AND the farm enterprise. It’s a whole entity,” said Anne. Through ideas offered and contacts made in the class, Anne and Josh have arrived at the decision to launch their farm operation, which they are calling JHA Farms, by beginning a broiler and laying hen operation this spring. The couple plans to raise around 100 broilers and 125-150 laying hens. They will be doing some direct-marketing of their poultry products as well as selling through the Co-op Natural Foods in Sioux Falls. Anne met the co-op manager, Molly Langley through the marketing portion of the class, where Molly served as a member of marketing panel. The Co-op is also a scholarship sponsor for the course. After raising the initial batch of chickens Anne and Josh will evaluate the next steps in the operation. Anne says she already has some orders for chickens from folks at her church that just happened to overhear that she might be raising some.
Josh and Anne’s decision-making process was aided by the course presenters who Anne said gave them ideas of what they could do. “We both have knowledge,” Anne said, “but to make a decision we needed ideas about what would fit our lifestyle best.” Anne and Josh see the poultry operation as a launching pad for eventually getting into cattle. “With chickens you have smaller input and output, but it’s a starting point,” said Anne. The couple hopes eventually to start a cow-calf operation and also get into crops. “By the end of five years we’d like to see Josh full-time farming,” said Anne. “The challenge of course, will be in finding or renting land in order to move into these other areas of production.”
As part of the couple’s final presentation for the class, Anne and Josh gave an overview of their poultry enterprise plan, including a financial layout of the operation as well as their marketing plan.
Anne speaks highly of the Farm Beginnings program, noting that “the class is an investment and paying for the tuition was difficult for us financially, but it was worth every penny.” In the future, Anne will be serving as part of the Leadership Team for the course. The Leadership Team is small group of members who work in collaboration with the course facilitator to plan out and evaluate the course throughout the year.
Anne recommends the course to anyone even just thinking about farming, “Even if you’re not sure about farming, the course takes you through an invaluable learning process.”
Want more information? See the related SARE grant(s) LNC09-311, South Dakota Beginning Farmer Training and Linking Project.
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Project products are developed as part of SARE grants. They are made available with support from the Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education (SARE) program, which is funded by the U.S. Department of Agriculture-National Institute of Food and Agriculture (USDA-NIFA). Any opinions, findings, conclusions or recommendations expressed within project products do not necessarily reflect the view of the SARE program or the U.S. Department of Agriculture. USDA is an equal opportunity provider and employer.