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Rick Worthington New Farmers Learn the Ropes
by Rick Worthington, click here for bio

Program: Farm and Ranch Report
Date: September 14, 2018

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Farmers learn fast there's no substitute for experience, and that's why many farmers are getting help from elders in the business who are willing to share their knowledge.

When Bart VerEllen became a farmer in mid-life, he joined a two-year support and matching-funds program. VerEllen said the mentorship program allowed him to work with experienced farmers who knew the ropes, attend a range of learning events, network with peers and develop a business plan.

"Not only did we go through the process of thinking everything through and putting it down on paper, but we also had input from the program facilitators,” VerEllen said. “And we also had financial professionals look at our business plan."

In 2016, VerEllen started Apple Creek Farm, where he raises hair sheep. He said he envisions a farm with a sustainable forage system that will support multiple species.

"Our goal is in the next year or two I can quit my off-farm job completely and be able to just farm full time,” he said. “In addition to the business plan, we've been networking with other beginning farmers and other older, experienced farmers - farmers helping farmers."

The number of younger farmers has decreased since the 2007 Census of Agriculture report. The report showed there were about 387,000 farmers age 44 and younger in 2007. That number had dropped by 43,000 in 2012 - nearly 14 percent.

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