Kickstarting New Organic Farmers in New Jersey

Posted on by Erica Evans, NOFA-NJ Beginning Farmer Program Coordinator
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Farmer Matt Hand shovels while his son supervises.

 

As demand for healthy, local, organic food grows, where will you buy it? Who will produce it?

Northeast Organic Farming Association of New Jersey (NOFA-NJ) is in the final five days of our Kickstarter campaign “Growing New Organic Farmers” to raise $20,000 for beginning farmer scholarships. These scholarships will increase new farmers’ access to training, courses, workshops, and conferences that will provide them with the skills and knowledge they need to improve their farm businesses and flourish.

The project ends at 10 a.m. on Thursday, May 14. So far, we are 55 percent funded with five days to go. We must raise $9,000 in five days, so we need your help today.

NOFA-NJ has been working to bridge this education gap, ensuring there will be future organic and sustainable farmers for years to come with our Beginning Farmer Program — the only one of its kind in the state. The program was launched with funding from a three-year USDA grant that ended in 2014. Through this grant, beginning farmer scholarships were also made available through NOFA-NJ from 2011 to 2014.

Many new farmers have indicated that without scholarships they could not have attended the trainings they needed to improve their skills and knowledge. The hefty capital investment required by farm businesses, combined with New Jersey’s high cost of living and soaring land costs, places a considerable financial burden on beginning farmers, often pushing the cost of education out of their reach. By defraying the cost of education for new farmers we are filling the experiential learning gap that new farmers used to get on family farms from their parents or grandparents.

Beginning farmer and past scholarships recipient Taylor Naughton transplanting in the field.

Beginning farmer and past scholarships recipient Taylor Naughton transplanting in the field.

By launching our Kickstarter Staff-Pick project, “Growing New Organic Farmers,” NOFA-NJ’s goal is to raise $20,000 directly benefiting beginning sustainable and organic farmers in the form of scholarships to increase their access to education. If we reach our minimum goal, stretch goals have been identified to create an online video learning library, add more mentors to our Mentorship Program, and send more farmers to our annual Winter Conference.

Contributing to this Kickstarter campaign has a direct impact on the future of beginning farmers in the Garden State creating more successful organic farmers to meet the demand for organic food.

Who do you help when you back Growing New Organic Farmers? New farmers like those highlighted in our Kickstarter Featured Farmer Series (click on names for Featured Farmer profiles): Jess Isbrecht, Matt Hand, Ashley Gamarello, Kyle Goedde, Taylor James, and Taylor Naughton.

For many beginning farmers, starting out means working as an intern or apprentice and having no extra money for additional farmer training. It’s at this crucial time in a new farmer’s career that they need the education the most, not just for a skill and knowledge base but also to network with the community of farmers in New Jersey establishing strong relationships and partnerships with their peers.

New farmer Jess Isbrecht with her pastured, heritage turkeys. It was the Pastured Poultry Production and Processing workshop she attended on scholarship that equipped her with the skills she needed to bring humanely-raised turkeys to her customers’ Thanksgiving Tables.

New farmer Jess Isbrecht with her pastured, heritage turkeys. It was the Pastured Poultry Production and Processing workshop she attended on scholarship that equipped her with the skills she needed to bring humanely-raised turkeys to her customers’ Thanksgiving Tables.

With just five days left and $9,000 to raise, NOFA-NJ and the community of beginning organic and sustainable farmers in New Jersey need your help! Every dollar counts and makes a difference, whether it’s $5 or $50. Kickstarter is an all-or-nothing crowdfunding campaign, and if the $20,000 goal is not met by 10 a.m. on May 14, zero money pledged goes to NOFA-NJ and there will be no beginning farmer scholarships available for the foreseeable future.

Farmer Matt Hand, beginning farmer and owner of Hand Picked Farm has benefited from the Beginning Farmer Program in his first years of farming, “My family is considered low income for our county and classes, magazine subscriptions, conference passes, etc. are definitely outside of my budget. Without the [scholarships] granted from the program, I would have a much less diverse palette of information to learn from and grow my business.”  ​

With CSA wait-lists and organic food shortages in many supermarkets, growing new organic farmers in the Garden State would help meet the ever-increasing demand for organic food. If you’re a True Believer just like the folks at Kickstarter, please contribute whatever feels comfortable for you to this project raising money for beginning organic and sustainable farmers in New Jersey, and, please, share with your friends, family, co-workers and foodies in your life!

Backer rewards range from a NOFA-NJ farmers market canvas tote bag to tickets to events like our annual Harvest Dinner and Winter Conference and even an exclusive farm-to-table dinner. There are incentives for all, farmers, gardeners, and foodies included, to back this campaign. The more we can support beginning organic and sustainable farmers in New Jersey, the more successful farmers we will have, and the more organic food will end up on your table!

With five days left, we can do this. Together we can make a difference in the future of a flourishing organic and sustainable farming community in New Jersey

To learn more about NOFA-NJ’s “Growing New Organic Farmers” Kickstarter campaign, read campaign updates, and to back the project, go to http://kck.st/1yqJRbw.

Help us spread the word by telling your networks you support support new organic farmers in New Jersey. And be sure to let us know, too! Tag @NOFANJ on Twitter and NOFANJ on Instagram.

The campaign ends at 10 a.m. on Thursday, May 14, 2015.

The Northeast Organic Farming Association (NOFA-NJ) is dedicated to supporting organic and sustainable food, farming, and gardening in New Jersey through education, technical assistance, and policy action. NOFA-NJ is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization.  For more information, visit www.nofanj.org.​

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