On June 1st, Miss N and I are riding our bikes. We are hopping on the saddle for a purpose. A program near and dear to our hearts, one that has benefited us and at least 400 other beginning farmers across the state. We'll be peddling 55 miles as part of Ride to Farm, the 1oth annual long-distance fundraiser for the Wisconsin School for Beginning Dairy and Livestock Farmers.
Although I do love a good bike ride, this is a very special one. Not only will be have the great pleasure of biking the hills of Wisconsin (yes, they do exist) and savoring stops at Uplands Cheese (hello Rush Creek Reserve!) and Cates Family Farm, but we'll be supporting one very awesome beginning farmer training program at the same time. And as a 2012 graduate of the WSBDF, I know first hand just how valuable this course is.
You see, as a student in this class I not only imbibed weekly presentations from Wisconsin's top dairy and livestock graziers (as in grass-based and pasture-based agriculture), but also from leading researchers and extension staff too. I soaked in about as much as one human being possibly can about fencing, forage blends, parasites, stray voltage, milk parlors, water quality and so much more, all while sitting in a Madison classroom. And that's just the production end. On the business side, the WSBDF course also provided the much needed kick-in-the-pants to finally write a business plan for our dream farm operation. Our final draft, recently subimitted to FSA as part of our Beginning Farmer Loan application, totaled 17 pages and included three very detailed enterprise budgets for eggs, heritage hogs, and apples, along with a balance sheet, capital expense list and more farm-planning narrative than you can shake a stick at. More than anything else, all of our business planning served a real purpose. We actually spent time figuring out the financials and step-by-step details needed to start our farm business (and we logged enough Friday and Saturday nights at local coffee shops during the winter of 2012 to prove it)!
But back to this fantastic course...other speakers included USDA Farm Service Agency loan officers who ran us through the basics of applying for farm credit, along with rural commercial lenders who shared their perspective on lending to direct-market and emerging market farmers. And beyond all the education provided, this course is certified as "financial management trainings" and "production borrower trainings" applicants are required to obtain before submitting farm operating or real estate loans to the Farm Service Agency. So when it came time for us to vouch for our 'credit education' on the tenth (out of ten) form comprising our FSA loan application, we could proudly and easily check a box demonstrating we've met this criteria. At least that part of the application was easy.
In short, without this course we would have had a much harder (if not impossible!) time completing the already arduous process of applying for an FSA Beginning Farmer Loan...aka following through on our farming dream. And although we have a fair amount of farming under our belts, this course was an incredible introduction to the who's who of grazing, dairy and livestock in Wisconsin, our new (and hopefully permanent) home.
To say the least, the Wisconsin School for Beginning Dairy and Livestock Farmers has served as an incredible asset to us, and many other beginning farmers in the state. Even better, at least 75% of graduates of the school are now farmers! That's a pretty impressive success rate for a 17-year program.
So, on June 1st we are riding in support and appreciation of the WSBDF program that has inched us toward our farming dream. We are raising money for our ride in order to pay it forward and support the next class of beginning farmers who will step closer to their farming goals through the this program. And here's where you come in: you can bolster this important program by making a pledge to support our 55-mile journey and a new crop of beginning farmers in Wisconsin. Simply click on the links below to make a donation. Thank you for believing in the potential of new and young farmers across the state of Wisconsin!
Oringially posted at just.write.food