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The Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program (BFRDP), directed by the USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA), is a competitive grant program that provides funding for the education and training of beginning farmers and ranchers. The BFRDP was first rewarded with permanent annual funding with the passage of the 2008 Farm Bill; before this, its was funded inconsistently. In 2012, BFRDP had $19 million available in funding for its standard project grants, as per the dictate of the 2008 Farm Bill. With the upcoming Farm Bill revision in 2013, the funding of the BFRDP will be up for reauthorization (the current extension did not provide any funding for the program).

A few BFRDP Success Stories:

South Dakota Beef Producers – BEEFSD

Wisconsin Dairy Farmers – Grassworks Apprentice Program

Glynwood Center and Farm

Center for Agroecology and Sustainable Food Systems in Santa Cruz, CA

See the complete list of 2012 BFRDP recipients

The BFRDP supports the belief that there are many types of assistance beginning farmers may benefit from when starting out in agriculture. The explicit goal of the program is to “enhance food security by providing beginning farmer and rancher producers and their families in the U.S. with the knowledge, skills and tools needed to make informed decisions for their operations, and enhance their sustainability.” (USDA, National Institute of Food and Agriculture)

So, how does the BFRDP affect you? If you’re a beginning farmer, you can enroll in courses and training programs that have been subsidized by BFRDP. In fact, many of the programs listed on NYFC’s “Regional Farmer Training Opportunities” page have been partially funded in the past by the program. The program rewards grants to various organizations that provide financial and entrepreneurial training, as well as mentor services and apprenticeships, to aspiring farmers. Other groups, such as land-link programs and outreach education programs, are eligible to receive grants. Seminar topics that may be covered by a BFRDP grant include everything from soil health to marketing strategies and business plans.

The subsidy from BFRDP made the program affordable for me and many others in my situation. Our class graduated 80 people this year, which means 80 new small businesses are taking off in New York thanks to this program.”

-Bryn Roshong, Gardiner, NY

In 2012 alone, the program funded everything from farm incubator programs in southeast Michigan to financial planning education to Latino/a farmers and ranchers in Missouri and Nebraska, to a sustainable urban farmers program in New Orleans. You can read the entire list of 2012 recipients here. In the words of Bryn Roshong, a participant in a “Farm Beginnings” farm business education program in New York State, “I’m in my second year of running my own farm operation, and Farm Beginnings gave me the tools and resources to get my finances, planning, and marketing on track. The subsidy from BFRDP made the program affordable for me and many others in my situation. Our class graduated 80 people this year, which means 80 new small businesses are taking off in New York thanks to this program.”

Hawthorne Valley's Farm Beginnings course
Hawthorne Valley’s Farm Beginnings course. Photo courtesy of

Applicants for BFRDP grants include state, tribal, local or regional groups, whether private or public. These may be community organizations, NGO’s, USDA state agencies, cooperative extension programs, or colleges and universities. In turn these groups must provide education or training assistance to beginning farmers and ranchers. NIFA requires the grant recipients to provide a match in the form of cash or in-kind contributions of at least 25% of the funds provided by the grant. A quarter of the BFRDP’s yearly funds are allocated to address the needs of minority, veteran, immigrant, and female farmers.

Every fiscal year NIFA releases a Request for Applications (RFA); however the RFA for 2013 has not been released due to the reauthorization of the Farm Bill that is currently underway. You can keep an eye out for the new RFA online here. If you’re an organization seeking to educate beginning farmers, please apply! If you’re a farmer, search for subsidized training programs and encourage organizations to look into applying for a grant.

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