Practical Farmers of Iowa is now accepting applications for the Savings Incentive Program, which has served 138 beginning farmers on their path to establishing a healthy farm business since it launched in 2010.


The two-year program aims to help beginning farmers succeed at their farm start-ups through mentorship from experienced farmers; business plan support; the chance to save money and receive matching funds; the opportunity to attend a range of learning events; and access to a network of supportive peers.


Applications for the Savings Incentive Program’s Class of 2020 will be accepted through Oct. 10. Applications must be filled out and submitted using the online form at practicalfarmers.org, which will then be evaluated by a committee of PFI members using a scoring system that rewards a noticeable commitment to developing independent farming goals. Up to 12 beginning farmers will be admitted this round, with those enrolled starting in January 2019.


After 24 months and completion of all program requirements, participants earn a dollar-for-dollar match on money saved up to $2,400, for a possible $4,800 that may be used to help purchase a farm asset. This savings component helps beginning farmers overcome prohibitive start-up costs, though many participants cite the networking, mentorship and business plan work as the most beneficial aspects of the program.


“I applied for the Savings Incentive Program and was matched with a mentor, Gary Guthrie, and we worked through all the main steps of coming up with a business plan, and all of the financial planning for a farm,” says Julia Slocum, who operates Lacewing Acres in Ames and was part of the SIP Class of 2014. “I think having a good network gives you a lot of really good ideas, and also relieves a lot of that beginning farmer pressure that there’s a right way to do things. Seeing all of these experienced people doing things in different ways was really important to know that I was going to find my own path.”


Requirements: As part of the Savings Incentive Program, participants will connect with a variety of mentors and network with other classmates. 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 Practical Farmers events per year. PFI events include online trainings, on-farm field days, conferences, workshops and more


• Conduct online quarterly reviews with Practical Farmers staff to check on progress toward goals and program requirements


• Complete all forms and requested information on time


Eligibility: Applicants must either be farming on their own now and have farmed for five or fewer years, or they must 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 either reside or farm in Iowa. Those who are not members can join at practicalfarmers.org or by calling 515-232-5661. For questions about the Savings Incentive Program or the application process, contact Greg Padget at greg@practicalfarmers.org or 515-232-5661.