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Dakota Rural Action: Transition to Beginning Farmers
24 Aug 2013
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Dakota Rural Action directly addresses the needs of South Dakota’s new farmers through their Farm Beginnings Program. This program began 5 years ago to train beginning farmers and help them create their own whole farm plan. DRA connects experienced or retiring farmers to new farmers through the Farm Beginnings mentorship program. Experienced ranchers and farmers lead trainings on topics like basic farming practices and determining fair prices for crop all to assist the new farmers in starting a sustainable, successful farm. One of the main barriers to new farmers is a lack of capital to get started. Members of DRA’s Farmer Network raise awareness of these barriers, by reaching out to folks interested in local agriculture and family farms. The network holds community meetings to devise recommendations for ways to help transition farmable land to new farmers. Selling farms to the highest bidder usually leads to more consolidation of land ownership. Buyers interested in consolidation bull doze homesteads, trees, and any structure on the property to increase acreage. In South Dakota, large monoculture farms producing corn, soy, hay, or wheat have replaced independent diversified or specialty crop farmers. There are next to no dairies left in the entire state. Still, DRA staff and farmers remain hopeful. They are seeing more and more Dakotans calling for a transition to smaller, diversified family farms. Young people, nationally and in South Dakota, are expressing their desire to enter farming and the numbers of retiring farmers who want to help them are quickly rising too. Young farmers will help populate small towns and rural communities. Connecting them to retiring farmers not only stems the agricultural brain drain, but will also strengthen the legacy of independent agriculture and rural communities.


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