What is the Headwaters Farm Incubator Program?
Headwaters Farm Incubator Program is designed to assist in the development of new farmers. The program involves leasing out sections of EMSWCD's Headwaters Farm to motivated, skilled individuals who will use it as a launching pad for their own farming endeavors.
Why is EMSWCD Interested in a Farm Incubator?
Soil and Water Conservation Districts across the nation have been helping farmers for over 70 years. Typically, this work has been to preserve and improve natural resources which farmers rely upon, for example top soil and clean water. However, one of the increasingly problematic threats to agriculture—both here in East Multnomah and across the nation—is the aging farmer population and the lack of qualified, experienced, and skilled individuals ready to take the helm and responsibly manage America's farmland. This breakdown isn't due to a lack of interest locally, as indicated by the high demand for the Beginning Urban Farmers Apprenticeship program and other entry level farmer learning opportunities. Instead, the lack of new-farmer preparedness stems from a combination of institutional, cultural, and financial barriers which greatly inhibit the development of new farmers and farm businesses. These barriers commonly consist of a lack of access to:
East Multnomah Soil and Water Conservation District seeks to use Headwaters Farm as a launching pad for farm businesses by providing the resources necessary to helping farmers overcome these barriers. And, in doing so, help keep good farmland in production while adding to the diversity of the local 'farmscape.'
Headwaters Incubator Program Goals
In addition to aiding the establishment of new local farm businesses, there are a number of other program and site objectives. These include:
How the Program Works:
Interested individuals can apply to rent land at Headwaters Farm. Selected applicants—those deemed by a Selection Committee to have the necessary farm skills and a viable farm business plan that is suitable for the site—will sign a lease with EMSWCD and agree to follow program guidelines . Land charges begin well below market value, but incrementally increase each year the farmer is in the program. By the fourth and final year of the incubator program, farmers will be paying full market value for their land. In addition to land, farmers will have the ability to rent various farm tools, equipment, and other agricultural resources from the District. Additional information on the resources available to new farmers can be found on the Program Costs page .
Who Should Apply to the Program?
Interested individuals with experience in farming and the agricultural skills and knowledge necessary to establish their proposed farm business. The program seeks to find incubator farmers who will be successful and add to the diversity of local farm products and marketing strategies. Right now all types of farm businesses will be considered, however, it should be noted that the planting of perennial crops is likely a poor fit given the four-year nature of the program and the time it takes perennial crops to be productive. Also, the site is not currently set up for livestock operations, so any farm businesses proposing animals must include details on how they will provide shelter, fencing, and any other needed infrastructure.
How and When to Apply:
Prospective incubator farmers will need to fill out an application form in addition to submitting a farm business plan and resume. Application selection will be through a competitive process. The application window for the 2014 growing season will open in the fall of 2013.
Have Questions?Contact Rowan Steele, Farm Incubator Manager, at: rowan AT emswcd DOT org or 503.935.5355.