New Management Program Helps Educate Beginning Farmers in Kentucky

New management program helps educate beginning farmers: Program offers lessons for beginners in how to make the dream work

By Beverly Fortune –

Lisa Schmoetzer and her husband, Tony Velasco, moved from Phoenix five years ago to a 28-acre farm they bought in Anderson County.

With no farming background except what she remembered as a child growing up on a small farm in Indiana, Schmoetzer started raising chickens and selling dressed poultry and eggs. She now raises meat and milk goats to sell, and has a vegetable stand at the Lawrenceburg farmers market.

Financially, it has been tough, said Schmoetzer, 47, who holds a master’s degree in ecology. “I’m used to researching things and being analytical, but most of what I’ve learned on the farm has been by trial and error.”

If I had had a business plan, goals, a budget when I started out, that would have been helpful,” she said.

It’s farmers like Schmoetzer that two University of Kentucky agricultural economics professors, Lee Meyer and Jennifer Hunter, had in mind when they received a $748,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture to establish a comprehensive farm management program to help beginning farmers. The USDA made such grants to 29 universities.

Targeted are young farmers, those who frequently take over a family farm, and those seeking a second career, the middle-age “beginning” farmers.

A partnership between UK and Kentucky State University, the two-year program, called A Common Field, will be offered in 20 areas throughout the state starting in the spring.

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