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PFI’s Savings Incentive Program application deadline looms

By Staff | Sep 27, 2014

Beginning or aspiring farmers who could benefit from a network of experienced farmers and a savings match while creating a successful farm business still have time to apply for Practical Farmers of Iowa’s 2015-2016 Savings Incentive Program.

Applications are due by Oct. 3.

The two-year program pairs beginning and aspiring farmers with experienced mentors; offers business plan support and the chance to save money and receive matching funds; and provides access to numerous learning opportunities, as well as a network of farming peers.

To access an application online, visit www.practicalfarmers.org, or call the PFI office at (515) 232-5661 to request a copy through the mail.

Up to 25 beginning farmers will be admitted to this fifth round of Savings Incentive Program participation. Those admitted will be part of the Class of 2016 and are selected by a committee of PFI members using an evaluation system that rewards a noticeable commitment to developing applicants’ independent farming goals. Selections will be made in early November.

To date, 74 beginning farmers have been or are currently active in the program.

The Savings Incentive Program works by encouraging enrollees to save up to $100 per month for two years. After 24 months and completion of all program requirements, participants will earn a dollar-for-dollar match on money saved up to $2,400, for a possible $4,800 to use toward purchasing a farm asset.

Requirements

As part of the program, participants are paired with a mentor, with whom they must meet in-person at least three times in the first year. Participants also:

  • Open and manage a savings account with Practical Farmers’ partner bank;
  • Create or fine-tune a business or whole-farm plan ;
  • Attend at least four PFI events per year. PFI events include online trainings, field days, conferences, workshops and more;
  • Conduct quarterly reviews via email, phone or in-person with Practical Farmers staff to check on progress toward goals and program requirements; and
  • Complete all forms and requested information on time.

Input from participants

“What I’ve gained the most from being in the Savings Incentive Program is the vast network system of support,” said Janna Feldman, a current enrollee from Honey Creek who raises sheep and goats. “With so much advice on various topics, I feel connected to a huge web of information. I don’t have to re-invent the wheel because someone else has already been there and done that.”

Karla Hanson, a past participant who raises sheep near Monona, said the program forced her to look at her farm from a new perspective.

“Without the deadlines and goals required of SIP participation,” she said, “I would not have moved forward with our farming plans as quickly.”

Eligibility

To be eligible, applicants must either be farming on their own now and have farmed for five or fewer years, or have some experience working for a farm business.

This includes, but is not limited to: internships, apprenticeships, working as an hourly or salaried employee or working on the family farm.

Applicants must also live in Iowa or farm in the state (out-of-state residents are eligible, so long as they are farming in Iowa), and be members of Practical Farmers of Iowa.

Those who are not currently members can join at www.practicalfarmers.org or by calling (515) 232-5661).

For questions about the Savings Incentive Program or application process, contact Julie Wheelock at (515) 232-5661 or julie@practicalfarmers.org.

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