The Ohio Ecological Food and Farm Association

The Ohio Ecological Food and Farm Association (OEFFA) announced the second phase of its Begin Farming Program to advance the viability of beginning farms and successful transfer of farmland between new and retiring farmers.

For the project titled, On Solid Ground: Hands-on Training, Farm Viability, and Land Access Support for Ohio Beginning Farmers, OEFFA and its partners will build on previous work to comprehensively address the educational, skill-building, and service needs of new and beginning farmers to enhance their ability to acquire land, be successful as producers, and manage viable farm businesses.

OEFFA will coordinate applied learning experiences, with the nationally-recognized Dairy Grazing Apprenticeship, a new Specialty Crop Apprenticeship Program, and individualized mentorships. The organization will arrange farmer-led and culturally-appropriate whole farm planning, financial management, and marketing workshops throughout the state with partners Land For Good and Farm Commons, among others. Additionally, OEFFA’s sustainable agriculture staff will provide individualized technical assistance to aspiring and beginning farmers.

OEFFA will also provide support for retiring farmers and the transfer of land to beginning farmers, particularly non-family farmland transfers. HeartlandFarmLink.org, OEFFA’s new land link profile service, is a starting point for land owners and land seekers to find each other. OEFFA will offer land transfer workshops, facilitate communication between parties, and establish a Beginning Farmer Service Provider Network as well.

“Increasing successful entry into farming and subsequent persistence in farming has the potential to deliver significant positive impacts to agriculture in Ohio and across the U.S.,” reflects Carol Goland, OEFFA’s Executive Director.

This program is funded by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program (BFRDP). The USDA has announced $14.3 million in grants to organizations for 32 education, mentoring, and technical assistance initiatives, included funding for OEFFA’s second three-year project.

Ohio has the sixth largest population of beginning farmers with 33,885, according to the USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service. Ohio is also home to a sizable, though harder to quantify, number of aspiring farmers. Perhaps because of this large cohort of new farmers, the number of farms (77,800–fourth in nation) and farmland acres in Ohio is on the rise, bucking trends nationwide. Despite these encouraging numbers, the farm viability, land access, and economic challenges faced by beginning farmers are significant.

“Long-term, our food security, rural revitalization, and sustainability goals are intrinsically tied to the success of beginning farmers,” said Goland.

BFRDP was re-authorized by the 2018 Farm Bill, receiving $92.5 million to be awarded over the next five years. The program was originally funded through the 2008 Farm Bill.

rice plant field
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