A Beginning Farmer needs access to land which is a necessary part of ensuring the legacy and survival of small farms into the next decade. As older farmers age-out and retire, a new generation of young farmers is needed to take their place. A primary obstacle to this new generation of beginning and young farmers is access to land and housing.
These new farmers often lack the experience and funds to gain access to land. Buying land is often not practical and leasing land is often too expensive or too far away from affordable housing.
Ideally a beginning farmer needs access to both housing and land in the same space but for any farmer leasing or buying an entire parcel, buying equipment, setting up irrigation, installing fencing, and other expenses associated with a new farm is often beyond the scope of what is financially and physically possible for one beginning farmer alone.
The solution is for agricultural communities to support incubator and Community Cooperative Farms as a way to bridge this gap.
An incubator or cooperative farm is a large farm which provides each beginning farmer a parcel of land (1/8 acre to 1 acre) to farm and potentially allows the beginning farmer to live onsite while participating in the farm program.
This provides beginning farmers with place they can plant, plan, harvest and sell their first crop while living near their crops.
This cooperative farm model would also work well for local farm workers who are often low income and cannot afford housing offsite. These workers are often barred from access to the food they help grow. Allowing farm workers the ability to live on a farm or in a farm community where they are allowed a space to grow their own food and provided a space for housing would improve their living conditions, health and the small farms they help maintain.
ACCESS TO LAND: Students and Beginning Farmers need a space to gain practical real-world experience, depending on the size of the incubator or community farm program. The growing spaces can be as small as a section in a greenhouse or an 1/2 acre or more.
ACCESS TO EQUIPMENT: As the incubator or community farm grows all the beginning farmers gain access and use of the permanent improvements such as deer fencing, irrigation, farm tools, and greenhouses.
ACCESS TO HOUSING: The housing for the students and beginning farmers is intended as an affordable modest living space close to the crops. There are several housing options each with its own benefits and drawbacks. RV’s can provide temporary shelter that is easy to setup and portable but it is not energy efficient and can produce enormous electric bills for heating and cooling. There are two forms of small cabins that can be used for housing. The first is a more primitive cabin which would act as an external bedroom so it would be fully insulated with a/c, heat and electric but these cabins would be without plumbing for showers or kitchens so a community kitchen and showerhouse would be required. The second potential model would be to build a fully functioning small cabins with bathroom, shower, and mini-kitchen. These cabins would be 350-650 sqft depending on individual farm project needs and designs.
Limiting Occupants: Each farm project will have its own limits for the number of occupants a homesite can reasonably accommodate. The limiting factors may be determined by considerations such as length of occupancy, septic restrictions, and size of building. For instance beginning farmer housing at our incubator farms are limited to 2 people per cabin/ housing site.
FARMERS ONLY HOUSING: Farm Housing is absolutely necessary for any farm to succeed so the important consideration is that the farm worker or beginning farmer housing is intended to help the farm and the small farm industry, however, providing affordable farm housing on the community farm site is not intended to be housing development so we are not open to the general public but the public is welcome to visit during our yearly farm tours.
It past generations’, a retiring farmer would pass down their small farm to their children or the retiring farmer would sell their operation to a young beginning farmer. However, with the decline of small farm, one the biggest obstacles for beginning farmers is access to land. To help this new generation of farmers gain access to land for their first few seasons, a new model has emerged called an incubator farm. Incubator Farms have started across the country as a bridge between when a beginning farmer has already received their training through an agricultural college or an apprenticeship training on a farm and when the new famers will have enough experience and funds to buy or lease their own farm. These new farmers have already been trained or are highly motivated to learn and need a place to grow their first crop but often they don’t have enough funds, experience or haven’t yet located the farm of their dreams so they still need a place to grow a crop. Our incubator program provides these beginning farmers the land they need to launch their own farms and help to preserve small farming for the next generation.