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Beginning farmer retreat set Nov. 30, Dec. 1, near Newton.

By Staff | Nov 10, 2012

AMES, – Practical Farmers of Iowa will host its 2012 Next Generation Retreat on Nov. 30 and Dec. 1, 2012, at the Christian Conference Center southeast of Newton, Iowa. All beginning farmers are welcome to attend, regardless of age, farm enterprise, location or size.

The cost is $10 for PFI members and $35 for non-members, plus lodging. On-site lodging is available for the first 42 registrants in hotel-style rooms, which are $65 and have two double beds and a private bathroom. Linens, pillows and towels are provided. Commuters are also welcome to register and attend even if they cannot stay overnight.

Register by Nov. 15th online at: www.practicalfarmers.org/events/workshops.html or contact Luke Gran, PFI next generation coordinator, at (515) 232-5661 or luke@practicalfarmers.org

The event, now in its fifth year, is designed to bring beginning farmers together to discuss opportunities and challenges facing beginning farmers in Iowa, as well as solutions and personal farm stories. This year’s event will feature multiple small-group, farmer-to-farmer learning opportunities. At the request of members, the retreat has been lengthened and the event will feature planned structured networking as well as ample unstructured free time.

In addition, attendees will have the chance to discuss diverse topics such as product marketing, accessing land, cover crops, developing a business plan and funding beginning farm enterprises. Free individual consultations with a banker will also be available to beginners who wish to learn more about their financial position and directions to take to achieve farm and life goals.

On Friday evening, Traci Bruckner, assistant director of the Rural Policy Program at the Center for Rural Affairs, will speak about provisions in the farm bill geared to beginning farmers. A follow-up discussion period will offer the chance to ask questions and offer input on ways the next farm bill can better serve the needs of beginning farmers.

Nathan Anderson, a beginning farmer who runs a cow-calf operation and raises row crops, small grains and hay in rural Cherokee, has attended two past retreats and says being able to network with other beginning farmers is one of the event’s major benefits.

“There’s great opportunities to network with other beginning farmers, of all ages, that have a lot of varied experiences and also to network with the speakers,” he says. “There are different phases of what might define a beginning farmer, so being able to get advice from someone who just went through something, or might be going through it, is really helpful.”

This year, Anderson has graduated from attendee to retreat speaker. Last year he bought his first piece of land and will speak about some of the financing intricacies based on his experience, and he plans to walk participants through some examples of the paperwork involved.

“I hope to bring generic copies of some of that paperwork, because it can be a real shocker,” he says. “It’s a challenging situation and can be a bit scary especially when you’re looking at making your first major purchase.”

The retreat will take place in the conference center’s newly designed hotel-style main lodge, which features several meeting rooms and a four-season porch overlooking Iowa woodlands.

Tomoko Ogawa, Practical Farmers of Iowa local foods and small grains coordinator, will prepare meals featuring food from PFI farmers. Participants are asked to bring a potluck dish to share for Friday night’s meal.

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