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PFI opens 2016-17 Savings Incentive Program

By Staff | Sep 6, 2015

AMES – Practical Farmers of Iowa is now accepting applications for the 2016-2017 Savings Incentive Program. The two-year program seeks to help beginning and aspiring farmers achieve success with their farm start-ups by pairing participants with experienced mentors; offering business plan support and the chance to save money and receive matching funds; access to learning opportunities; and connection to a network of supportive farmers.

Applications will be accepted now through October 9, 2015. This year, all applications must be filled out and submitted using the online application form. A link to the form is at practicalfarmers.org. Up to 15 beginning farmers will be admitted to this sixth round of programming. Those admitted will be part of the Class of 2017, and are selected by a committee of Practical Farmers members using a scoring system that rewards a noticeable commitment to developing applicants’ independent farming goals. Selections will be made in early November. To date, 92 beginning farmers have been or are currently active in the program.

The Savings Incentive Program works by encouraging enrollees to save $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 the purchase of a farm asset. More than $99,000 has been matched and given to beginning farmers who have completed the program.

Dawn Anderson, of Kindred Spirits Goat Farm in Webster County, recently completed the Savings Incentive Program and says it helped her build her business. “I have learned to so much in two years,” she says. “I feel like I’m light years ahead of where I would have been on my own. The program definitely made me a better farmer.”

Requirements: As part of the Savings Incentive Program, participants will be 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.
  • Meet at least one time in person with a business plan reviewer.
  • 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 online quarterly reviews with PFI staff to check on progress toward goals and program requirements.
  • Complete all forms and requested information on time.

Many beginning farmers cite learning from their mentor or writing a business plan as the most invaluable part of the program. “It’s been great to connect with another farmer who has years of experience and still has a desire to learn,” said Rory Van Wyk, who farms at RoLyn Acres near Winterset, and is currently enrolled as a member of the Savings Incentive Program Class of 2015. “PFI members have an excitement to accept new challenges and gain from them. Getting to know my mentor has shown me that.”


To be eligible for the Savings Incentive Program, 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 be members of Practical Farmers of Iowa, and reside or farm in Iowa. Out-of-state residents are eligible, so long as their farms are located in Iowa. Applicants whose farms are located outside of Iowa are also eligible, provided their primary residence is in 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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