Conference shines light on beginning farmer opportunities

Randi Reeder

The Beginning Farmers Conference will be an educational opportunity for many students.

The event will be held Saturday at the Scheman Building at Iowa State.

“I think that this conference is important for students to attend that have the desire to farm after graduation, but may not have a guarantee that they will have the opportunity to do so from their family,” said Tyler Reimers, senior in agronomy and the Beginning Farmers Network president, the campus organization that has put on this event for the past seven years.

“In the past, the conference has pulled in around 120 attendees, but we are expecting higher numbers this year. The attendees are not all Iowa State students; some are family members, high school students and students from other universities,” Reimers said.

Chad Hart, assistant professor of the agriculture economics, explained that farming is “not an easy business” and can present many challenges for new comers. 

“The conference is set up to help ease the start-up process for beginning farmers and let them know about a number of programs and policies that exist to help them in their new endeavor,” Hart said.

Students, such as Dan Gradert, realize the hard work that is needed to be successful to farm directly out of college. 

“Yes, it can be challenging if you are a student who is set on graduating and then farming full time after college,” Gradert said, senior in agronomy and member of the BFN. “However, if you are willing to be flexible and open to new opportunities, I don’t see a reason why anyone that wants to farm couldn’t achieve that goal.”

The main focus of the conference is to educate and inform beginning farmers on current events in agriculture. 

“A lot of the information being presented is specifically targeted for a young, beginning-farmer audience,” Hart said, who will be one of the presenters in the breakout sessions discussing “Ag Marketing for Beginning Marketers.” “Several of the other speakers will be talking about specific government programs such as IADA and FSA loan programs that are designed to assist young beginning farmers as they begin and expand their farm businesses.”

Hart said that several topics such as soil classification, entrepreneurial opportunities in crops, livestock, agribusiness, basic crop marketing and financial programs will be discussed for beginning farmers at the conference.

Several students were asked whether they believed that a young person today could dive into the industry if they were not from a family farm, the answer from many was “no.” 

“I’m discouraged to hear that some students give up a dream of farming for lack of start up capital,” Gradert said. “I am confident that anybody, regardless of farm background or capital, could have a successful career in agricultural production. Organizations like the Beginning Farmer Center do great work in promoting opportunities for beginning farmers; but in addition to that, an individual who is willing to take on some livestock, perhaps do some niche market stuff or organic production, thinks outside of the box and is willing to try something will have a fair opportunity for success.”