University of Kentucky

Poster Title

Helping Beginning Farmers in Kentucky Transition into Agriculture

Institution

University of Kentucky

Abstract

The U.S. agriculture will be experiencing a major change – about half of the farmers are expected to retire in the next decade and be replaced by beginning farmers. Currently, only 20% of the farms are beginning farms, therefore there is a need to educate and prepare new farmers to transition into agriculture. The Kentucky Beginning Farmer Program (KyFarmStart) is a federally-funded program led by the University of Kentucky to provide educational programs for beginning farmers. In 2010, over 100 beginning farmers enrolled in the program in four geographic areas representing 22 counties in Kentucky. The goal of this research was to evaluate the effectiveness of KyFarmStart program to train beginning farmers and to provide us with a deeper understanding of their characteristics and needs. Specifically, we used an end-of-program evaluation including pre- and post-program assessment of knowledge gained and behavioral changes. We also included detailed demographic questionnaires on beginning farmer characteristics. Our results showed that KyFarmStart has been very effective in training new farmers by increasing their knowledge and involvement with the farm business. We have also developed benchmarks for comparing beginning farmers’ characteristics with the rest of the Kentucky farm population. Specifically, ArcMap from ArcGIS was used to plot the beginning farmer characteristics spatially on a map and compare them with all farmers based on Census of Agriculture data. Our research helps to understand beginning farmer characteristics and their educational needs to prepare them to transition into agriculture and ultimately design more effective educational programs for beginning farmers.

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Helping Beginning Farmers in Kentucky Transition into Agriculture

The U.S. agriculture will be experiencing a major change – about half of the farmers are expected to retire in the next decade and be replaced by beginning farmers. Currently, only 20% of the farms are beginning farms, therefore there is a need to educate and prepare new farmers to transition into agriculture. The Kentucky Beginning Farmer Program (KyFarmStart) is a federally-funded program led by the University of Kentucky to provide educational programs for beginning farmers. In 2010, over 100 beginning farmers enrolled in the program in four geographic areas representing 22 counties in Kentucky. The goal of this research was to evaluate the effectiveness of KyFarmStart program to train beginning farmers and to provide us with a deeper understanding of their characteristics and needs. Specifically, we used an end-of-program evaluation including pre- and post-program assessment of knowledge gained and behavioral changes. We also included detailed demographic questionnaires on beginning farmer characteristics. Our results showed that KyFarmStart has been very effective in training new farmers by increasing their knowledge and involvement with the farm business. We have also developed benchmarks for comparing beginning farmers’ characteristics with the rest of the Kentucky farm population. Specifically, ArcMap from ArcGIS was used to plot the beginning farmer characteristics spatially on a map and compare them with all farmers based on Census of Agriculture data. Our research helps to understand beginning farmer characteristics and their educational needs to prepare them to transition into agriculture and ultimately design more effective educational programs for beginning farmers.