The Journey Farmer Program is a one-year program for beginning farmers who are in the first few years of running their own farm business in Vermont. The program is largely shaped by the farming interests and goals of the Journey Farmers, and enables new farmers to advance their farming skills and experiences while being a part of a cohort learning community of other beginning farmers and farmer mentors.
The Journey Farmer program is built to be a “next-step” for graduates of the NOFA-VT Farm Beginnings program. Other beginning farmers with similar skills and experience are also encouraged to apply. The program is built for participants who are actively farming and selling products, and have a foundation of basic farm financials and record keeping. See more information on qualifications below.
Applications for the 2020/2021 Journey Farmer program are now open! Click below to apply. Or contact Megan at 804-434, 4122 to have a paper application mailed to you.
Applications are due by Monday, September 14th, 2020. Couples and/or business partners should submit one joint application. We will review applications, schedule interviews and notify participants by mid-October.
- Define goals for your farm business through the next five years
- Refine business and financial planning documents
- Further develop marketing plans and implementation strategies
- Identify next steps to meet your farm goals
- Build relationships with a cohort of beginnings farmers at similar stages of business development
- Cohort learning experiences and support network
- Farmer-to-farmer mentoring
- Advanced business planning courses
- Farm visits with NOFA-VT Farmer Services
- $250 educational stipend
- Free/discounted admission to NOFA-VT educational events
- Business planning support & technical assistance from NOFA-VT staff
**In 2020/2021, due to COVID-19 safety protocols, all in-person components of the Journey Farmer program will be based on state guidelines for in-person gathering and adapted to virtual offerings as needed. Full value of the program will be accessible without in-person visits. As is needed and desired by program participants, NOFA-VT will help to steward opportunities for safe in-person visits in accordance with state guidelines. NOFA-VT will work with all participants to ensure that access to reliable internet is not a barrier to participation.
Cohort learning experiences and support network: At its core, the Journey Farmer program is designed to build an intimate cohort of beginning farmers who can learn alongside and from each other. Space will be made for relationship building among program participants all in similar stages of farm business development.
Farmer-to-Farmer Mentoring: Each Journey Farmer participant will be matched with a farmer mentor of your choice. Farmer mentors are paid to provide up to $500 of their time throughout the year. Farmer mentors provide overall farm business support in addition to practical detailed knowledge that can help with a range of farming related topics. Farm mentors and Journey Farmers are expected to visit each other’s farms at least once over the course of the year* and be accessible for communication via email and phone for the duration of the mentorship.
Advanced Business Planning Courses: 2-3 courses will be offered throughout the year on topic areas shaped by the interests and learning objectives of each Journey Farmer cohort. Journey Farmers are expected to attend all courses. Past examples of courses include soil health management, marketing, and LEAN farming techniques.
Farm Visits: Farm visits will be interactive opportunities to tour fellow Journey Farmer’s farms, ask questions, and offer feedback. NOFA-VT Farmer Services will also attend farm visits to offer guidance, support, and feedback. Journey Farmers are expected to participate in 2-3 regional farm visits during the growing season.
Educational Stipend: Journey Farmer participants will receive an educational stipend of $250 for pre-approved farm related courses, consultants, books, videos, computer software or travel. Option to use these funds for one-on-one marketing or financial consultation.
NOFA-VT Educational Events: Journey Farmers receive free admission to NOFA-VT educational events including workshops and field days in NOFA-VT’s Summer & Fall Workshop Series, and the NOFA-VT Winter Conference. Journey Farmers can also attend individual classes in NOFA-VT's Farm Beginnings program for $25. Please note: For the 2020/2021 Cohort, NOFA-VT workshops, events and educational offerings will be limited and adapted due to COVID-19.
Business Planning Support & Technical Assistance: NOFA-VT Farmer Services staff are available to provide additional business planning services and production technical assistance as needed.
Qualifications: The Journey Farmer Program is targeted towards farmers in the first few years of running their own business. Prospective Journey Farmers should have a range of agricultural skills, a commitment to farming in Vermont, and reasonably clear and realistic plans for their future farming activities. Journey Farmers will be graduates of the NOFA-VT Farm Beginnings class, have completed similar coursework through another organization, or developed comparable skills through their farming experience. If you have graduated from another Farm Beginnings program or have two or more years managing your current farm business, please get in touch with Megan, Farmers Services Program Facilitator at [email protected] of 802-434-4122 to discuss whether the Journey Farmer Program is a good fit for you.
Application Process: The Journey Farmer Program year begins in November. Journey Farmer applications are reviewed once a year in late September. Applicants are notified of a decision by early October. For applicants who have not completed Farm Beginnings, an interview will be part of the application process. Couples and/or business partners should submit a joint application.
Enrollment: As members of a cohort learning group, Journey Farmers are expected to commit to participating in all aspects of the program. At the start of the Journey Farmer program year, participants will begin by outlining their goals for the program, completing a personal assessment on their areas of improvement, and developing a list of potential mentors. NOFA-VT will use input from program enrollment and participant goal mapping to develop desired learning opportunities and coursework.
November: Journey Farmer Program starts with a kick-off gathering to introduce the program and connect with others in the cohort. The session will also include a presentation on an advanced business planning topic. For the 2020/2021 cohort, due to COVID-19, this session will be virtual.
January – March: The Journey Farmer Cohort will meet two more times in the winter for additional advanced business planning classes. The class focus will be based on the needs of the Journey Farmer cohort. Farmer participants will also start working with their farmer mentor starting in January. For the 2020/2021 cohort, due to COVID-19, class structure will likely be virtual. More details TBA.
June – October: Journey Farmers are expected to participate in 2-3 regional farm visits during the growing season. These will be interactive opportunities to tour fellow Journey Farmers’ farms, ask questions, and offer feedback. For the 2020/2021 cohort, structure of farm visits will be re-evaluated based on state guidelines on COVID-19. More details TBA.
To learn more about the program, please contact Megan Browning, Farmer Services Program Facilitator, [email protected], 802-434-4122 x7180