Start2Farm Together Conference


Sixty-five beginning farmer and rancher educators and service providers from across the country convened at the Illinois Farm Start 2farmquoteBureau (IFB) headquarters in Bloomington for the National Start2Farm Together Conference on April 15-16.  

Participants met to share resources and best practices, as well as identify any resource gaps in moving beginning farmer and rancher programs forward.  Attendees included those from Illinois, as well as those who traveled as far as Hawaii, New York, South Carolina, Georgia, Texas, Alabama, Minnesota, Iowa, Michigan, and locations in between.

“The conference provided an opportunity to hear what others are doing in their states to assist in preparing the next generation of farmers, as well as provide resources to existing farmers wanting to diversify their operation,” states Cynthia Haskins, Manager of Business Development and Compliance for Illinois Farm Bureau.

The Start2Farm site and program are projects of the National Agricultural Library in partnership with the American Farm Bureau Federation. Start2Farm is funded through a grant from the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture's (NIFA) Beginning Farming and Ranching Development Program (BFRDP). It was developed to assist people new to farming or ranching and those who have less than 10 years of experience.

The event was hosted by Illinois Farm Bureau, University of Illinois Extension and Illinois Department of Agriculture and sponsored by Farm Credit.

“We had several breakout sessions that centered on scaling up and aggregation, minority and underserved groups, recruitment of new and beginning farmers, land acquisition and financing, making the connections between farmers and buyers, food safety and more,” said Cynthia.

Some of the speakers and facilitators included:

  • Lilia McFarland, USDA New & Beginning Farmer & Rancher Program Coordinator
  • Cynthia Haskins, Illinois Farm Bureau
  • Debi Kelly, University of Missouri, Missouri Beginning Farmers
  • Rick Weinzierl, University of Illinois
  • Leigh Adcock, Women, Food and Agriculture Network
  • Barbara Stille, Farm Credit Services
  • Kendra Schilling, Illinois Department of Agriculture
  • Jim Fraley, Illinois Farm Bureau
  • Dave Alwan, Guest from the ABC popular reality show The Shark Tank
  • Eva Agudelo, New Entry Sustainable Farming Project & National Incubator Farm Training Initiative (NIFTI)
  • Steve Arnold, Kane County Farm Bureau

Plans are underway for the Start2Farm Together conference to be held on the West Coast in 2015.





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