West Virginia Beginning Farmer Training Program

In West Virginia, statewide local food demand is increasing, but the state faces an aging and retiring population of farmers. This project is driven by a 2014-2017 statewide “sustainable agriculture needs assessment" process, and more recent discussions in 2018-2019 with service providers and farmers, to better understand priority needs for nascent and beginning farmers (farming <10 years) in the state. Results of this needs assessment and state census statistics have confirmed that there is a higher demand for local foods with new opportunities for West Virginia producers, but points to knowledge and experience gaps that limit entry and success for beginning agribusinesses. 

Therefore, this project led by the state SARE coordinator at West Virginia University, will create a partnership of the state’s agricultural service providers to streamline program resources and offerings to meet the business planning and risk management needs of beginning farmers.

The three-year project will develop a Train-the-Trainer program for ten agricultural service providers and farmer mentors/leaders to work with beginning farmers, to start or expand operations, and improve the sustainability of their practices. The project will also develop a comprehensive whole-farm planning and risk management curriculum designed as a “one-stop-shop” of resources to provide more holistic and efficient services.  

Performance Target: At the end of the project, 10 agricultural service providers and farmer mentors/leaders will have gained practical knowledge and skills needed to design and provide on-farm mentorship and beginning farmer training opportunities for their clientele. Six of these participants will use what they learn to design and deliver on-farm mentoring, technical training, and coaching to five small scale horticulture, livestock, and value-added operations. Thirty of the farmers reached, who are managing about 300 acres, will adopt at least four recommended actions in whole-farm business planning and risk management, and report improved productivity and profitability of existing/expanded operations. 

Want more information? See the related SARE grant: