By Hannah Ruth Tabler, NFU Intern
For beginning farmers, getting a start in the agriculture industry can be difficult. Without a supportive network and educational resources, aspiring growers can find themselves at a loss for where to start in an industry where connection is key. Thankfully, organizations like the Indiana Cooperative Development Center offer support and education for anyone interested in joining or starting a cooperative or collaborative business. The combined efforts of the ICDC and the Purdue University Extension have developed some excellent business resources for farmers of all ages.
Using funding from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Rural Development Grant, the ICDC offers services to coops for no charge. They support collaborative businesses from all sectors, including agriculture. They offer technical assistance, provide education to prospective coop owners, and work with the government, universities, and farm organizations to provide information on best practices for your business.
Interested in participating in a farmers’ market? ICDC offers a plethora of information on how to get involved as well as local information. Purdue University’s article “Starting a Farmers’ Market” offers pointers for how to start your own market. There’s also a YouTube video series that discusses everything from financials to how to set up your booth.
The ICDC’s publication “Farmers Market Vending: A Guide for Indiana Specialty Crop Producers” walks growers through the process of choosing and joining a market. It also offers legal information that can affect your new business as well as advice on how to best sell your goods. You can read the manual by clicking here.
Their Indiana-specific resources include links to cooperative codes and information on wood burning and pelleting laws in Indiana. They also hold events such as the annual Indiana Small Farm Conference, a networking and education event for small-scale farmers throughout the state held at the Purdue campus. The ICDC website consistently updates with new programs and information. Be sure to check out their news page for coop news from across the country!
On the Purdue side, interested growers can count on their Diversified Farming and Food Systems program for information, programs, and resources on farm diversification and market access. You attend their yearly Farmers Market Forum or attend a workshop series through their local extension office. Those interested in local food systems should visit their page for more information on an upcoming Farm to School Action Committee Workshop or information on the benefits of shared-use kitchens and local food economics.
Purdue Extension’s website features resources on urban agriculture, local foods, veterans, and more. Their ‘Beginning Farmers’ page is home to a library of resources, links to informational podcasts, info on state programs, and a calendar of events. For hopeful urban agriculturalists, the Urban Agriculture Certificate is a yearlong course featuring lectures, field trips, and vital hands-on experience to help beginning urban farmers start their business. You can also join the Purdue Urban Farm Incubator Network, a community-building opportunity for new and experienced urban farmers. To see their wide berth of resources for yourself, check out their Diversified Farming and Food Systems page here.
Have you tried out any of these resources? What would you like to see your state offer? Let us know below!