What is the Beginning and Young Farmers Network
Alaska leads the nation in agricultural growth and there’s no sign of it slowing down. The average age of a producer in Alaska is two and a half years younger compared to the national average age. Moreover, Alaska leads the nation in the percent of new and beginning producers. Almost half – 46 percent – of the state’s farmers have 10 years or less experience on any farms
Some of you may not identify with the term “young” and that is why we are leading with “beginning” instead; but the two are nearly synonymous. Whether you’re actually young or young at heart- we are including all people who are kicking off a career in agriculture; from a first year farm apprentice to someone pursuing a midlife career change. Generally speaking, we define a beginning farmer as someone who is in the first 10 years of growing food for income and/or operating their own crop fields.
Building a Network one Phase at a time
Phase I: Survey new farmers and determine interest levels
Phase II: Assemble Network participants / Continuous outreach to new farmers
Phase III: Develop and determine Network’s name, communication spaces, mission, vision, goals, and objectives. Establish a leadership team
Phase IV: Create three short videos about the new farmer network and it’s farmers
Phase V: Encourage and support local in-person new farmers meet ups and formations of regional chapters
Phase VI: Meet as a Network at least twice a year, communicate with regional chapters regularly, provide learning opportunities for new farmers, and serve as a good point of contact and collaboration between new farmers and food/agriculture organizations.
Modeled after the National Young Farmers Coalition (www.youngfarmers.org), this statewide project has taken root.
There are many local chapters across 30 states, some states have multiple chapters, yet the nonprofit has no official representation in Alaska. National Young Farmers Coalition has guidelines to become an “official chapter;” guidelines such as: a minimum of 10 farmers in a chapter, meets at least four times a year, and is defined by geographic region.
That’s why this statewide project has taken root under Alaska Farmers Market Association because they understand Alaska is vast geographically and culturally, yet a small state in numbers and recognize there may only be one farmer in a community. This project invites and offers a structure to include those folks who are underrepresented, underreported, and unable to “officially” participate in regional chapters. Which is why we’ve changed the original language from chapter to network; but that does not stifle our flexibility to break off into more localized chapters as we move forward.