Alcorn receives grant to support new and beginning farmers

Alcorn State University received a grant of $600,000 from the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) to assist in enhancing the sustainability of new and beginning farmers (Farm Management Educational Program for New, Beginning Farmers and Ranchers in Mississippi – Grant no. 2018-70017-28547). Dr. Elizabeth Myles, adjunct faculty and marketing specialist for the Mississippi Small Farm and Agribusiness Center, served as the project director. Dr. Gregory Reed, Dr. Magid Dagher, and Ms. Velma Oliver served as co-project directors.

Many opportunities exist within farming and ranching, but beginning farmers and ranchers (BFRs) have unique educational, training, technical assistance, and outreach needs. To ensure profitability and sustainability, it is vital for individuals who are just entering agriculture and/or are in their first ten years of operation to have access to funds, land, knowledge, and information.

According to data obtained from the USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service, the number of young people going into farming continues to decline, but the number of new farmers and ranchers over the age of 35 as well as the number of smaller farms and ranches continue to rise. According to Myles, ensuring that there will be a new generation of beginning farmers and ranchers  – regardless of age or production choice – is important to the preservation of agricultural production. 

The overall goal of the Farm Management Educational Program (FMEP) is to recruit, train, and provide 300 new beginning farmers and ranchers with the tools and resources necessary to produce and implement a practical farm plan, making them sustainable in vegetable and meat goat production. The objectives are to provide educational training and hands-on demonstration in basic crop and livestock production; financial management; risk management; market diversification; food safety and biosecurity (measures taken to protect humans or animals against disease or harmful genetic agents); and programs and services of the current farm bill.

Beginning farmers and ranchers profile, test and assessment results will be reported to show the impact of the program and to measure the success of their farming operations. 

Outcomes for the program are expected to show improved production practices and marketing strategies; gained knowledge in farm fundamentals; gained knowledge and experience in organizing financial records and creating enterprise budgets; established farm records to generate financial statements; utilized resources to develop a farm plan that incorporates realistic goals and objectives, establishes production, cultivates marketing and financial plans, and develops strategies for risk mitigation, and more.

“This funding is a step in the right direction to continue to recruit new, beginning farmers and ranchers. We will continue to provide cutting-edge assistance and outreach to Mississippi farmers to ensure that they remain sustainable,” said Myles.

For more information, contact Myles at 601-877-3947 or [email protected], or Velma Oliver at 601-877-6570 or [email protected]