In September, the United States Department of Agriculture’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) announced grant investments of more than $53 million across three unique programs for U.S. farmers, ranchers and military veterans to support American agriculture.
“Agriculture offers promising career opportunities, particularly in farming and ranching,” said Parag Chitnis, acting NIFA director. “Federal investments in programs that help new farmers get into the business, support military veterans who are considering farming and ranching as a new career, and address serious stress-related mental health issues among farmers, are critical to ensuring our next generation of food producers are able to successfully meet the challenges facing agriculture.”
While there are many excellent opportunities in agriculture, beginning farmers and ranchers have unique needs for education, training and technical assistance. For producers in their first 10 years of operation, access to capital, land, knowledge and information to help improve their operations’ profitability and sustainability is vital. USDA-NIFA’s Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program (BFRDP) awarded more than $16.7 million in 48 projects to deliver the support new farmers and ranchers need.
Among those awarded a BFRDP grant is the SDSU Extension beefSD team. Members of the team include SDSU Extension Beef Specialist Ken Olson, SDSU Extension Range Specialist Krista Ehlert, SDSU Extension Meat Science Specialist Amanda Blair, SDSU Extension Associate Stacy Hadrick, and SDSU Extension Cow/Calf Field Specialists Adele Harty, Robin Salverson, Olivia Amundson and Kiernan Brandt. Other personnel involved in the grant are SDSU Extension Community Vitality Field Specialists Peggy Schlechter, Kari O’Neill and Joshua Hofer. Grant partners include the World Wildlife Fund and the South Dakota Department of Tourism.
The overall goal of the project is to provide beginning producers in South Dakota with information, tools and networks they need to adjust traditional production methods to accommodate new enterprises. The SDSU Extension beefSD team will provide education, mentoring and technical assistance through partnerships with several community-based organizations called Hubs of AgriTourism or HATs. Through these efforts, the program will teach livestock and natural resource management and planning, diversification and marketing strategies, and entrepreneurship and business skills.
“The BFRDP grant allows us to continue the Extension programming we have in place for beginning producers, the two-year beefSD program,” said Ehlert. “This funding provides our producer participants with opportunities to engage with well-established producers who have a wealth of knowledge and experience to share, as well as learn from industry experts through in-person workshops and webinars and experience the magnitude and different facets of the entire beef industry through case studies and out-of-state learning experiences. None of those would be possible were it not for receiving funding this year from BFRDP.”