Virginia announces Certified Farm Seeker Program

In a reversal of trends over the past couple of generations, young people today seem to be returning to the farm, or they would if they could just find one. Farming is an occupation that is asset heavy – land, equipment, buildings, machinery, livestock – and all of those assets are expensive. A mid-size farm, if you can find one for sale, can run into hundreds of thousands or even millions of dollars. Some farmers are making a living on thirty acres or fewer. But if a would-be farmer really wants a farm with all the acreage, barns, sheds, tractors, planters, sprayers, combines and harvesters, what is he or she to do?

Thanks to a new program offered by the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (VDACS) and the Virginia Farm Bureau’s Young Farmers Committee, would-be farmers can become a Certified Farm Seeker, a designation that lets landowners know you are serious about farming.

The Certified Farm Seeker (CFS) program is designed for farmers at all levels: beginning, established or transitioning. The program’s goal is to provide individuals who want to farm with the tools needed to successfully demonstrate their farming commitment and vision to interested landowners. Those who earn the title Certified Farm Seeker stand out from the crowd. Landowners know these individuals are serious about establishing a farm enterprise and have completed the planning necessary for long-term success.

Agriculture is a business; in fact, it is Virginia’s largest industry. And like any other business, would-be farmers need a sound business plan as a first step on the road to their goal of farm ownership. The CFS Program is designed around helping interested farmers produce a business plan and resume, as well as demonstrate on-farm experience. Five Whole Farm Planning Modules are available as resources to guide seekers through this process. Each module contains objectives, questions and possible activities to help beginning farmers reach their goals. The curriculum is designed to be flexible and can be applied to farmers at every experience level.

When aspiring farmers complete the CFS program, they gain many rewards. They receive professional review of their business plan at reduced or no cost. They receive priority in the Virginia Farm Link database, an online resource designed to link farm owners interested in exiting agriculture with those seeking farms and farm businesses, thereby increasing the farm seekers’ chances of being contacted by a landowner. They receive invitations to numerous networking and social opportunities to interact with other farmers and landowners. And they may even receive time with a transition mediator or attorney at reduced or no cost.

“I was one of the lucky ones,” said Matthew J. Lohr, VDACS Commissioner. “I grew up on a family farm and retain an interest in that farm today. But not everyone is so lucky, and for those who want to turn their childhood fascination with machinery, plant and animals into a viable business, the Certified Farm Seeker Program is just the tool to get them started and to ensure their success.”

The Certified Farm Seeker Program will be officially unveiled at the Virginia Farm Bureau’s Young Farmers Summer Expo July 27 – 29 in Lynchburg. One of the Expo components is an informative session on the Certified Farm Seeker Program. Registration is free and information is available by contacting Ron Saacke at 804.514.4202 or ron.saacke@vafb.com. Additional information on the Certified Farm Seeker Program can be found at www.vdacs.virginia.gov/preservation/seeker.shtml.

The Certified Farm Seeker Program is a partnership between Virginia Farm Bureau’s Young Farmers and the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, made possible by Virginia Beginning Farmer and Rancher Coalition Project through Virginia Tech and revenue generated from the Virginia Agriculture specialty license plate.



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