The Virginia Beginning Farmer and Rancher Coalition Program is a collaborative effort represented by a range of beginning farmer stakeholders across the Commonwealth of Virginia: higher education, Virginia Cooperative Extension, non-governmental sector, state and federal government, and individuals. groups. It is housed in Virginia Tech’s Department of Agricultural, Leadership, and Community Education. Funding was sponsored by the Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program (BFRDP) of the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) Award #2015-70017-22887.
Long-Term Program Goal
The Virginia Beginning Farmer and Rancher Coalition Program aims to improve opportunities for beginning farmers and ranchers to establish and sustain viable agricultural operations in Virginia through the development and enhancement of whole farm planning programs, online resources, and farmer mentoring networks.
Our program launched in 2010. Current program activity is aimed at accomplishing four main objectives:
- Coalition Building & Capacity Building: Establish a diverse coalition of stakeholder organizations, agencies, and groups to support the development and growth of outreach, education, training, and networking opportunities for Virginia’s beginning farmers and ranchers
- Whole Farm Planning Curriculum & Programs: Collaboratively develop and deliver whole farm planning curriculum using experiential learning and classroom delivery methods
- Social Networking and Resources: Collaboratively develop and deliver online learning tools and resources using examples of whole farm planning curriculum activity
- Farmer Mentoring: Develop and strengthen mentoring networks to facilitate the exchange of knowledge and skills of experienced farmers and ranchers with the beginning farmer and rancher community
- Participatory Program Assessment: Explore the collective impact of the VBFRCP through an analysis of the Coalition model as a community-based participatory approach to beginning farmer training and program development
Beginning Farmer Audience
We are dedicated to addressing the needs of the spectrum of beginning farmers and ranchers in Virginia. The Coalition recognizes a diversity of farming experiences, backgrounds, and aims held by Virginia beginning farmers and ranchers. From the perspective of on-farm experience: This program primarily targets:
- Prospective or Explorer Farmers: individuals interested in starting a farm or ranch. This includes next-generation farm family members as well as those who do not come from a farming background.
- Start-Up Farmers: individuals who are in the early stages of their agricultural operation.
- Re-Strategizing Farmers: farmers who are making changes to their operations after an initial period of farming. These individuals usually have increased decision-making responsibility and commitment to farming.
- Establishing Farmers: farmers who are expanding, diversifying, and stabilizing their farming operations.
- Transitioning Farmers: individuals who are family farm members who have decision making roles on the farm without having primary farm operator status. These individuals are also referred to as heritage farmers.
*Farmer categories are a modification of those referred to by the New England Small Farm Institute (for full reference, see: Sheils, C. (2004). What does the term “new farmer” mean? In Working with new farmers: Topics in professional development (pp. 4-7). Growing New Farmers, a special project of The New England Small Farm Institute.
This program follows a community-based participatory research (CBPR) approach. This is a bottom-up approach to research and program planning that aims to equitably involve partners in the process. This approach recognizes the unique strengths that each group brings to the coalition. We believe that this process helps build sustainable partnerships and services for and with beginning farmers for long-term agricultural viability.
Who Is Involved?
The Coalition component of the program is collaborative in nature to adequately address the start-up needs of farmers and ranchers in Virginia. Each Coalition member has a strong record of providing outreach, education, training, and resource services to farmers and ranchers in Virginia. Coalition members share a sincere commitment to addressing whole farm planning needs through accommodating, organizational cooperation and promotion.
While a strong team of collaborators exist, the Coalition welcomes the participation of other organizations to help to build a more comprehensive support structure by expanding, enhancing and sustaining services and resources.
For detailed contact information for those involved with the Virginia Beginning Farmer and Rancher Coalition Program, please see our Technical Assistance Directory.
Advisory Group and Program Management Team
The Advisory Group of the Virginia Beginning Farmer and Rancher Coalition consists of committed individuals from the Coalition who represent both farmer and service provider perspectives in Virginia. This elected advisory group is responsible for providing input to guide program activity to best address the expressed needs of the Coalition. The Program Management Team is a partnership brought together through Virginia Cooperative Extension . This team is primarily responsible for the development, management, and evaluation of program activity.
Andy Sorrell, Coordinator of Office of Farmland Preservation, VDACS
Anne Geyer, Agriberry Farm
Jim Hankins, Coordinator of the Fauquier Education Farm
John Fant, Cattle & Sheep Farmer, Virginia Forage & Grasslands Council
Matt Lohr, Director of Knowledge Center, Farm Credit of the Virginias
Patrick Johnson, Fruit & Vegetable Farmer, Small Farm Agent for Virginia State University
Rose Jeter, Jeter Farm
Steve Bridge, Service Coordinator, AgrAbility Virginia
Adam Taylor, Catawba Sustainability Center
Allyssa Mark, Virginia Tech
Amy Fannon-Osborne, Virginia Cooperative Extension
Andrew Sorrell, VDACS
Andy Seibel, Catawba Sustainability Center
Charley Maxwell, Virginia Cooperative Extension
Derrick Cladd, Virginia State University
Jim Hankins, Fauquier Education Farm
Jim Hilleary, Virginia Cooperative Extension
Kathlyn Terry, Appalachian Sustainable Development
Katie Myer, Certified Farm Seekers Program
Kelli Scott, Virginia Cooperative Extension
Kim Morgan, Virginia Tech
Kim Niewolny, Virginia Tech
Lorien MacAuley, Virginia Tech
Natalie Cook, Virginia Tech
Patrick Johnson, Virginia State University
Ray Pickering, Department of Agricultural Development, Fauquier County
Ron Saacke, Virginia Farm Bureau
Sarah Sharpe, Virginia Cooperative Extension
Tamara McNaughton, Appalachian Sustainable Development
Tiffany Drape, Virginia Tech
Tom Archibald, Virginia Tech
William Crutchfield, Virginia State University
Special thank you to Althea Whitter-Cummings, Jennifer Helms, Lisa Hightower, Matt Benson, Maurice Smith, Phil D'Adamo-Damery, and Sarah McKay for their support with the Virginia Beginning Farmer and Rancher Coalition Program.
Curriculum Writing Team
The Curriculum Writing Team is a diverse team of Coalition members that represent service providers and farmers from across the Commonwealth of Virginia. This team is currently developing whole farm planning curriculum to guide the user in a friendly format through five integrated modules: Introduction to Whole Farm Planning, Land Acquisition and Tenure, Sustainable Farming Practices, Marketing, and Holistic Business Management. The team includes:
The Virginia Beginning Farmer & Rancher Coalition Program is a state-wide and coalition-based Extension program housed in Virginia Tech’s Department of Agricultural, Leadership, and Community Education. Funding was sponsored by the Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program (BFRDP) of the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) Award #2015-70017-22887. For more information, contact Kim Niewolny, Program Director and Extension Specialist, at firstname.lastname@example.org or 540-231-5784.
For website updates, such as broken links, please contact Allyssa Mark, Program Associate.