The Farm Again program will host a workshop to introduce potential farmers to U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) programs and loans at the University of Georgia Tifton campus on Wednesday, Feb. 28.
This is the first of a series of workshops to be held this spring. UGA Cooperative Extension, within the UGA College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences (CAES), and the Institute on Human Development and Disability (IHDD), part of the UGA College of Family and Consumer Sciences, manage Farm Again.
The workshops introduce different USDA program components to first-time or small-scale producers, said Rebecca Brightwell, IHDD associate director. She and Glen Rains, CAES professor, co-direct the Farm Again program.
“We’re doing this because we see people encounter big roadblocks. First, people need to understand what’s available and how they qualify for it. They also need to solve the problem of not having the resources to successfully grow their operations,” Brightwell said. “They may need money just to get started, and that may mean purchasing land or purchasing equipment. What programs does the USDA offer to solve this?”
During the workshop, experienced farmers serve on a panel and share their experiences with past USDA program applications. Rodney Brooks, USDA Beginning Farmer regional coordinator, will discuss the top reasons for declining loan applicants.
Brightwell hopes this workshop will clear up misconceptions for area agriculturists.
“There’s real confusion around what’s available to farmers. For instance, there are grants, and then there are loans. What’s the difference, and how can farmers know what they can apply for?” Brightwell said. “I think workshops like this will help new farmers get the base knowledge they need to be successful in farming.”
Over the past few years, a large influx of military veterans came into the Farm Again program. Farming is an excellent fit for veterans, according to Brightwell.
“They’re used to hard work, and they’re used to having to adjust to unforeseen circumstances. In farming, you’re doing that all the time. Nature’s not cooperating or a crop dies because something happened,” Brightwell said. “Veterans know how to move to the next target. They want to be busy. They want something that keeps them physically and mentally engaged. That really is healing for them.”
Veterans just need basic-skills training from mentors or workshops like this one, she said.
“This training is just one spoke in that wheel to try to help them out,” she said.
Future Farm Again workshops to be held this spring at UGA-Tifton: “Selling at the Farmers Market” on Tuesday, March 13; “Growing Organic Produce” on Wednesday, April 18; “Tractors 101” on Thursday, April 26; and “Soil 101” on Wednesday, May 16. All workshops last from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. The “Tractors 101” workshop includes a driving clinic, and teenagers over 16 years old may attend with parental permission. Space is limited.
To register for any of the workshops, visit www.farmagain.com/register.