BEGINNING FARMER PROGRAM
The future of farming in New JerseyThe future of farming in New Jersey is under threat due to development pressure and the need to connect a new generation of farmers with the land. NOFA-NJ has developed a four-tiered Beginning Farmer Program, with the goal of increasing the numbers of farmers while bringing more farmland into sustainable agricultural production. The program is based on four principles of becoming a farmer: (1) Exploring (2) Planning (3) Learning and (4) Practicing. The first tier is focused on courses, including Road to Certification, “Exploring the Small Farm Dream” and “Tilling the Soil of Opportunity,” that allow individuals to clarify their agricultural goals, assess their resources, and create a viable business plan. Subsequent tiers focus on linking participants with mentor farmers and incubator sites, where they will farm independently.
In addition, NOFA-NJ is working with landowners and beginning farmers to create mutually beneficial land linkages . In 2015, through a collaboration with Rutgers University and the State Agricultural Development Committee (SADC), NOFA-NJ developed WWW.NJLANDLINK.ORG. This land access website is designed to help farmers and landowners connect through a database of farmland available, farming opportunities sought, and land characteristics and production goals. In addition, a publication entitled Leasing Farmland in New Jersey: A Guide for Landowners and Farmers was published and workshops to educate land owners have been offered throughout the state.