Practical Farmers of Iowa’s Savings Incentive Program aims to help beginning farmers succeed by matching up to $2,400 dollars in start-up cash, providing access to an experienced mentor and support network and offering resources to build a solid business plan.


The popular two-year program is now accepting applications through Oct. 10 for the January 2019 enrollment. Since it launched in 2010, SIP has helped set 138 beginning farmers on the right path to establishing a healthy farm business.


After 24 months and completion of all program requirements, participants earn a dollar-for-dollar match on money saved up to $2,400, for a possible $4,800 that may be used to help purchase a farm asset. This savings component helps beginning farmers overcome prohibitive start-up costs, though many participants cite the networking, mentorship and business plan work as the most beneficial aspects of the program.


Bill and Stacey Borrenpohl launched Woven Strong Farm in Jackson County in 2011, then joined Practical Farmers of Iowa and enrolled in the Savings Incentive Program shortly after. Although both come from farm families, they faced a steep learning curve to get where they are today managing hogs, chickens, meat goats and Lowline cattle on pasture.


“Our mentor gave us practical guidance on setting up paddocks, water system options, portable fence options, and pasture management,” Stacey said. “It was a tremendously valuable relationship.”


After graduating from the program in 2016, the Borrenpohls used their savings match to purchase a UTV Mule to help with their grazing management: “The Mule has really been a huge time savings in our grazing to move paddocks, haul portable fencing and our new water system, and check on cattle,” Stacey said. “We encourage any beginning or early farmer to apply for SIP. The mentorship, savings and discipline to finish a business plan are a real kickstart to move your business forward.”


Applications must be filled out and submitted using the online form at practicalfarmers.org, which will then be evaluated by a committee of PFI members using a scoring system that rewards a noticeable commitment to developing independent farming goals. Up to 12 beginning farmers will be admitted this round.


Requirements: As part of the Savings Incentive Program, participants will connect with a variety of mentors and network with other classmates. Participants also:


• Open and contribute to a savings account


• Meet at least one time in person with a business plan reviewer


• Create or fine-tune a business or whole-farm plan


• Attend at least four Practical Farmers events per year. PFI events include online trainings, on-farm field days, conferences, workshops and more


• Conduct online quarterly reviews with Practical Farmers staff to check on progress toward goals and program requirements


• Complete all forms and requested information on-time


Eligibility: Applicants must either be farming on their own now and have farmed for five or fewer years; or they must have some experience working for a farm business. This includes, but is not limited to: internships, apprenticeships, working as an hourly or salaried employee or working on the family farm.


Applicants must also be members of Practical Farmers of Iowa, and either reside or farm in Iowa. Those who are not members can join at practicalfarmers.org or by calling 515-232-5661. For questions about the Savings Incentive Program or application process, contact Greg Padget at greg@practicalfarmers.org or 515-232-5661.