Practical Farmers of Iowa is now accepting applications for its next class of the Savings Incentive Program, a two-year mentorship and support program for beginning and aspiring farmers.

Applications are due by Friday, Oct. 11, and must be submitted using the form at practicalfarmers.org/savings-incentive-program.

Applications will be evaluated by a committee of PFI members using a scoring system that rewards a noticeable commitment to developing independent farming goals. Up to 12 beginning farmers will be admitted this round, and those enrolled will start in January 2020 and be part of the SIP Class of 2021.

The Savings Incentive Program aims to help beginning farmers succeed at their farm start-ups through mentorship from experienced farmers, business plan support, the chance to save money and receive matching funds, the opportunity to attend a range of learning events, and access to a network of supportive peers.

Since its launch in 2010, the program has helped 149 beginning farmers on their path to establishing a healthy farm business.

How It Works

After 24 months and completion of all program requirements, participants earn a dollar-for-dollar match on money saved up to $2,400, for a possible $4,800 that may be used to help purchase a farm asset.

This savings component helps beginning farmers overcome prohibitive start-up costs – though many participants cite the networking, mentorship and business plan work as the most beneficial aspects of the program.

“Going through the business plan portion [of the Savings Incentive Program] showed us many options to tweak and guide our plans,” said Jacqueline Shinn, who operates L4 Farms near Osceola and graduated with the SIP Class of 2017. “The largest advantage we got from SIP was learning the sequential layout of how to build the business plan.”

Program Requirements

As part of the Savings Incentive Program, participants connect with a variety of mentors and network with fellow classmates. Participants also:

• Open and manage a savings account with Practical Farmers’ partner bank.

• Attend at least two mentor farm visits in the first year and host a mentor farm visit on their farm in the second year.

• Meet at least one time in person with a business plan reviewer.

• Create or fine-tune a business or whole-farm plan.

• Attend at least four PFI events per year, which can include online trainings, on-farm field days, conferences, workshops and more.

• Conduct online quarterly reviews with Practical Farmers staff to check on progress toward goals and program requirements.

• Complete all forms and requested information on time.

Eligibility

Applicants must either be farming on their own now and have farmed for five or fewer years; or they must have some experience working for a farm business. This includes, but is not limited to internships, apprenticeships, working as an hourly or salaried employee, or working on the family farm.

Applicants must also be members of Practical Farmers of Iowa, and either reside or farm in Iowa. Those who are not members can join at practicalfarmers.org or by calling 515-232-5661.

For questions about the Savings Incentive Program or application process, contact Greg Padget at greg@practicalfarmers.org or 515-232-5661.

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