The Beginning Farmer Program has come to Alabama. The Alabama Beginning Farmer Program, funded by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Grant, aims to provide a knowledge infrastructure for new and developing farmers. Ayanava Majumdar, Auburn University Extension entomologist, is working on the program, which he calls a “very important project.”
The Alabama project started in 2015 when the state received the USDA grant. The goal of the program is to provide personnel assistance, as well as educational resources, to beginning farmers. The Alabama program puts emphasis on on-farm assistance as a collaboration by technical assistance providers (TAP) and regional Extension agents. Majumdar says with this collaboration, farmers have a lot of assistance and resources they can use to make their production flourish.
Majumdar adds that the Alabama Beginning Farm Program also puts a special emphasis on military veterans, as well as farmers in underserved communities.
Getting involved in the Beginning Farmer Program begins with a phone call. “Usually what happens is, when the producer calls, and they first talk to a TAP or regional Extension agent, they request a site visit,” Majumdar says. Then, the TAP or Extension agent and the producer will come together and discuss issues on their land.
According to Majumdar, a big issue that is being seen in Alabama is the lack of a marketing or business plan for beginning farms. “I think you can grow anything in the Southeast, but if you don’t have a marketing plan or business plan, the produce often rots, and you can’t sell it. That leads to loss on the farm, and the farm’s likely to close. So, we don’t want that,” Majumdar says.
The biggest goal of the Beginning Farmer Program is assistance, and Alabama is working to expand farmers’ resources. Aside from on-farm assistance, the Alabama program also provides resources in print and online. The Beginning Farmer website (link) is a great way to find important resources. According to Majumdar, some of the resources include fact sheets and handbooks.
Another tool the program is developing is an e-curriculum on farming basics. It is a course filled with information for a beginning farmer, and it can be completed at any time. Moreover, in 2016 the Alabama Extension began a monthly webinar series. The webinars are on the last Monday of every month at 9 a.m. Central Time. During the webinars, viewers can directly interact with researchers and presenters. If you miss the webinar you can watch it on the website. Webinars are typically 10 to 15 minutes long.
Hear Majumdar’s comments: