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Kentucky FarmStart Program Bringing Fresh Faces to Agriculture

When Denise Hamilton and her husband retire from their careers as teachers at West Jessamine County High School in Nicholasville, Kentucky, they plan to move to their new farm in Garrard County and supplement their retirement income by growing pasture-raised beef and organic vegetables.

“We just want to get back to the land, because that’s just who we are,” Hamilton said. “Back to who we are and also feel good about what we’re doing.”

The Hamiltons quickly realized they faced many challenges as beginning farmers. New farmers face unique challenges, including the rising cost of farmland and a lack of knowledge about how to get farmland, implement sustainable farming practices, and access operating capital to get started.

Participants of the BFRDP-funded KyFarmStart program in Kentucky listen to their instructor during an on-farm demonstration field day

Many beginning farmers are turning to educational programs to help them gain the skills and knowledge they need to be successful. The Hamiltons are participants in a new program, Kentucky Farm Start (KyFarmStart), which was recently launched by the Kentucky Cooperative Extension Service with a $750,000 grant from USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) through the Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program (BFRDP).

“We have a lot of beginning farmers that come into Warren County (Kentucky) with either a second career or retiring into Warren County as they have a passion for farming,” says Joanna Coles, Warren County Extension Agent for Agriculture. “This program will be great to give them the resources they need and help develop skills so that they can become change agents for agriculture.”

Participants of the BFRDP-funded KyFarmStart program in Kentucky listen to their instructor during an on-farm demonstration field day.

Participants of the BFRDP-funded KyFarmStart program in Kentucky listen to their instructor during an on-farm demonstration field day.

Eligible applicants include collaborative, State, tribal, local, or regionally-based networks or partnerships of public or private entities, such as state cooperative extension service, community-based and nongovernmental organizations, and colleges or universities. Applications are currently open for fiscal year 2011, and the application deadline is December 22, 2010. Find out more here.

The BFRDP funds programs similar to KyFarmStart across the country to meet the needs of these new farmers and ranchers and reduce the loss of farms through transition or through farm failure.

“I had no idea the resources that are out there and the government programs,” Hamilton said. “This is so worthwhile, and I thank University of Kentucky for sponsoring this.”

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