Young Farmers to Benefit from New Match Saving Program

The list of opportunities for women in agriculture in Vermont is growing, with the addition of a new program targeting youth, age 14-21. UVM Extension Center for Sustainable Agriculture is excited to announce a new match-saving and education program that will cultivate the next generation of Vermont farmers, and young women are strongly encouraged to apply.

Beginning in January, the program will give 30 youth engaged or interested in agriculture, a chance to explore the challenges and opportunities of managing their own commercial enterprises. They will build financial literacy, start-up capital and management skills by participating in the new Vermont Youth Individual Development Account (IDA) program. The program is the only in one of its kind in the U.S., and will consist of a coordinated effort between several agencies, non-profits, and institutions. Young farmers will save up to $500 during a one-year period, for a particular business asset purchase. During that savings period, they will explore the feasibility of managing an agricultural business. The program will provide structured financial literacy training, business management coaching and mentoring from qualified farm business management specialists and established farmers. Upon successful completion of the one-year program, participants’ savings will be matched at a rate of 2:1, giving farmers one program dollar for every dollar they save toward the purchase of a productive farm asset.  With a $500 ceiling, this means a participant would potentially have $1,500 to use for an asset purchase. Young farmers will exit the program possessing both seed capital and financial literacy skills- key components in establishing an independent enterprise or assuming more of a management role in the family farm operation.

After learning about a pilot Farm Bill program that helped new farmers build assets and financial literacy, UVM Extension explored the opportunity to bring it to Vermont. The program was authorized in the 2008 Farm Bill, but it has not yet received federal funding.   However, Vermont is looking to state and local sources of funding to develop an agricultural IDA program of its own.  UVM Extension is currently part of a national collaboration of ten other states doing the same.  For the Vermont program, UVM Extension intends to work with the Central Vermont Community Action Council, the Vermont New Farmer Network, partnering financial institutions, participating farm families and other key players to launch the IDA program here in January 2013.

Those who qualify are: youth, age 14-21, engaged or interested in agriculture. Eligibility will favor, but not be limited to young farmers from households meeting the USDA definition of limited resource household, socially disadvantaged or are at-risk; youth who have grown up on a working farm, but have not yet assumed a significant management role in family farm operation; and young farmers who would be good candidates for the FSA Rural Youth Loan Program, but are not eligible because they have not had business management training or experience yet.

Outreach and recruitment for the program will run from this summer to December, for a January 1 account establishment, with the savings and education portion of the program lasting through December 2013. If you are interested, or know anyone who might be, please contact Ali Zipparo, UVM Extension’s IDA Coordinator at azipparo@uvm.edu or call 802-656-9139. The website is: http://www.uvm.edu/extension/youth/vtyouthagida/

Avatar of Ali Zipparo

About Ali Zipparo

Women in Agriculture Network programs. She comes to UVM Extension with wide-ranging experience in Vermont agriculture and policy, including work with the Farm to Plate initiative and the Vermont Housing and Conservation Board’s Farm Viability program. Ali is passionate about agricultural policy issues, and will be providing updates about the 2012 Farm Bill and other agricultural matters over the next several months.
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