Supporting Beginning Farmers and the Agri-Preneurial Ecosystem Through Research and Education Projects

A training at New Entry’s Moraine Farm in Beverly, Massachusetts. Photo credit: Tufts University

By Jennifer Hashley, New Entry Sustainable Farming Project

The New Entry Sustainable Farming Project (New Entry) in Beverly, MA is a program of the Tufts University Friedman School of Nutrition, Science and Policy. Through courses, workshops, and hands-on trainings, access to land at their 15-acre incubator farm (USDA Certified Organic), and connections to markets through the New Entry Food Hub, New Entry offers a pathway for beginning, immigrant, and refugee farmers to get on the land and start their own operations. With support from Northeast Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education (SARE), New Entry is conducting three training projects in collaboration with partners across the Northeast to support their farmers’ needs.

Many beginning farmers get their start through apprenticeships, internships, or experiential learning programs on existing farms, and this hands-on training from other farmers can be key to their education.  A 3-year SARE Professional Development project is providing Farm Mentorship Training and Support Groups for Educators of Aspiring and Beginning Farmers. Professional development for farm mentors (covering topics such as communication, adult learning styles, providing feedback, balancing work and learning, generational difference) may result in more effective training for aspiring and beginning farmers, increase knowledge transfer of agricultural skills, increase employee retention, and improve farm work culture. Mentor trainings are being organized in Maryland, Maine, and New York. New Entry recently published a Mentor Training Toolkit - Supporting Mentors to Teach Next Generation Agrarians- to provide educators with resources, curricula, and strategies for effective mentorship.  

Another key challenge for beginning and established farmers alike is reliable farm labor.  New England’s growing number of diversified farmers urgently need new options for attracting, maintaining, and affording qualified farm labor. New Entry is leading a 3-year SARE Novel Approaches research project to develop Creative Farm Business Models to Address Employee Hiring, Training, and Management Barriers.  Partnering with area land-grant universities, Farm Commons, and local producers, New Entry is organizing focus groups with farmers to inform business models that will help design agricultural labor solutions.

The social sustainability of US farmers, farm families, and farmworkers requires adaptation and resilience in the face of change and stress. A 3-year SARE Research and Education project led by University of Maine Cooperative Extension, Cornell Small Farms Program, and New Entry is focused on Building Social Sustainability on Farms through Online and In-Person Education. This project focuses on testing  the validity of three facets of social sustainability: 1) health and well-being; 2) equity; and 3) community connections. The team has conducted farmer focus groups across New England and New York and findings will inform educational curriculum development for a series of three farmer retreats and a comparable online learning platform. Together and independently, these three investigative projects have the potential to increase Northeast farmers’ profitability, quality of life, and success in contributing to our regional food system. 

Learn more about Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education Program


Read more in How State and Federal Programs Support Farmers, Fishermen, Food Entrepreneurs and Consumers in the Northeast