The following interview with John Baker from the Beginning Farmer Center is part of a series of interviews we are conducting this year to introduce our readers to some of the great beginning farmer service providers across the country. Please check out our previous interviews with Groundswell Center for Local Food and Farming and The Cornell Small Farms Program
Beginning Farmers: Please introduce yourself.
John: I’m John Baker, an attorney that works for Iowa State University Extension service. I am a United States Marine Corps veteran. I was born in Iowa and, other than my Marine Corps service, have lived in Iowa all my life. For the last 31 years I have worked with farmers in business planning and farm family business succession planning.
Beginning Farmers: Tell us a little bit about your organization.
John: Extension is supported by Federal, State and Local funds. The purpose of Extension is to extend the research, knowledge and expertise of Iowa State University to Iowa citizens. In 1990 I created the AgLink matching program that matches beginning farmers and existing farmers who have no business successors. In 1994 I wrote the legislation that created the Beginning Farmer Center. The BFC is a part of Extension and provides a variety of education seminars and consultation services. In addition to working for the Extension I am one of the founding members of the International Farm Transition Network, a nonprofit corporation. The mission of the IFTN is to support programs that foster the next generation of farmers and ranchers. Beginning in 2013 the IFTN began offering professional development training on how to effectively work with farm families.
Beginning Farmers: What programs do you offer for young, beginning, and small farmers? And how can people take advantage of those programs?
John: The BFC works with all farmers to provide assistance in entering and staying in farming. The Center employs a Farm Transition Specialist to manage the AgLink matching service and to assist in teaching seminars.
Beginning Farmers: What is your vision of the future for beginning farmers in your area? What are you hopeful about?
John: There is a renewed interest in farming, especially by returning farmers. Several, veterans, professionals, farmers and educators have organized a nonprofit corporation, Veterans In Agriculture, to respond to the needs of returning veterans. The VIA works closely with Iowa State Extension, the BFC and the IFTN to provide education and opportunities for veterans. The enthusiasm and work ethic of the people we work with makes me as confident of optimistic about the future of all farm family businesses as I have ever been.
Beginning Farmers: What programs do you have upcoming? How can people get in contact with you?
John: In October the IFTN will hold a Certified Succession Coordinator training in Council Bluffs, IA and in January the BFC will offer the annual Returning To The Farm planning seminar. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org for complete details.
You can find out more about the Beginning Farmer Center on their website at: http://www.extension.iastate.edu/bfc/