BEGINNING FARMER PROGRAM

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The following is a compilation of helpful resources particularly suited to aspiring and beginning farmers, especially those in Arkansas.

 

First Considerations


 

Planning the Farm


  • Business Plan – once you are ready to start a farm, create a business plan

  • Most importantly, when starting a farm, start small! Aim for quality over quantity. Slowly expand once mastery is achieved.

  • Consider keeping an off-farm job until you feel financially comfortable transitioning into full-time farming.

 

Financing


  • NRCS EQIP Grant – Grant from the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) for helping to fund greenhouse construction and organic farming initiatives.

    • Contact for Arkansas: John Lee, 501.301.3173

    • Contact for Pulaski County: Kennard Williams, Pulaski County Office, 501.758.2544

    • For other areas: Local Service Centers Directory

    • To apply, fill out the EQIP Application (may have to open in Internet Explorer)

      • For organic or transitioning-to-organic growers, apply for greenhouse or other assistance under the “Organic Initiative” when discussing application with local NRCS officials, as there is more funding available under this initiative.

      • For non-organic growers, apply for greenhouse assistance under the “High-Tunnel Initiative” when discussing application with local officials.

      • Can apply anytime, but funding considerations happen once per year (TBD for 2016).

  • Forge – Forge provides low-interest loans (5.5 to 6.5%) for entrepreneurs – including sustainable farmers – in all Arkansas counties.

    • Loans range from $500 to 200,000 for a wide range of uses, including equipment, livestock, and land.

    • Apply via phone or online: http://forgeonline.com/index.php?page=lending

    • Phone: (479) 738-1585

    • Email: forge@forgeonline.com

 

Starting the Farm


Farm Set-Up

  • Keep farm as uniform as possible

    • As much as possible, beds should have uniform width and length to prevent needing different size/length materials for each bed

  • For more information on efficient farm set-up, reference The Market Gardener by JM Fortier

 

Soil

  • Testing – soil testing is important for determining what macro- and micro-nutrients are needed for successful growing.

    • Local Extension services typically offer this service for a fee

      • Arkansas provides free soil testing

    • Private labs, such as Logan Labs, can also provide detailed testing

 

Soil Remineralization

  • Use OrganiCalc (requires paid-subscription) soil amendment calculator to determine soil amendment application needs based on soil test results

  • Amendments

    • Here are options for purchasing needed soil amendments

    • For organic growers, check OMRI listings to ensure your chosen amendments are approved for organic use

 

Certifications

 

Tools

The following tools are helpful to a small-scale farmer, but note that this list is not comprehensive.

  • Six Best Tools for the Market Garden – an article by Jean-Martin Fortier, whose 1.5 acre farm grosses roughly $150,000 annually.

  • Other noteworthy tools

    • Broadfork – loosens soil without disrupting soil biology. This model is recommended for its 90 degree parabolic tines.

    • Collinear hoe – useful weeding tool

    • Vacuum seeder – Dramatically reduces flat-seeding time for growing transplants. Available for purchase, or can be made DIY-style.

 

Horticulture Technique


 

Seeding & Transplanting

 

 

Other Resources & Assistance


Speak directly with an expert

  • Call your local county extension agent

  • Ask a Sustainable Agriculture Expert – Call 800-346-9140 8 a.m. to 5 p.m Central Time, or submit a question on the online form, or text askanag@ncat.org

 

Educate Yourself – learn as much as possible from books, conferences, other farmers, etc.

 

 

 

  • Conferences