USDA, MU Extension invest in support for beginning farmers, ranchers

Program focuses on St. Louis area.

  • Published: Monday, Nov. 20, 2023

COLUMBIA, Mo. – The USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) has awarded the University of Missouri a $676,784 grant to break down barriers for beginning farmers and ranchers in the St. Louis metropolitan region.

MU Extension health and safety specialist Karen Funkenbusch will serve as the principal investigator for the three-year grant. It is one of 45 awarded nationwide by NIFA as part of its Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program, which supports a wide range of professional development topics, such as managing capital, acquiring and managing land, and learning effective business and farming practices.

“These funds provide meaningful support to a rising group of farmers and ranchers – including military veterans interested in starting new careers after their service,” says Funkenbusch. “It will help them cultivate the skills needed to be productive, profitable and resilient.” MU Extension specialists will partner with A Red Circle, a community-based organization in St. Louis, to offer education, outreach and one-on-one technical assistance as part of the grant.

The project builds on the Missouri Beginning Farmers Blend Experiential Learning to Grow Their Farm program, which focuses on teaching socially disadvantaged beginning farmers, military veterans and veteran farmers with disabilities served by the Missouri AgrAbility Project.

Farmers benefit from experiential learning of “doing, reflecting and applying” knowledge and actions through the five steps of adult learning, says Funkenbusch.

At the end of training, participants should be prepared to own or operate a farm business. Funkenbusch says this is vital to Missouri’s economic future as the average age of farmers continues to rise. “Ensuring there will be a new generation of beginning farmers and ranchers, regardless of age or production choice, is essential to the continuation of agricultural production in the United States,” she says.

Farmer Advisory Committee, USDA St. Louis Urban Hub, the MU Center for Regenerative Agriculture and Lincoln University’s Innovative Small Farmers’ Outreach Program will assist in providing workshops, one-on-one assistance, and farm tours for 80 farmers each year.

Writer: Linda Geist

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