Dec 22, 2017
Organic Farming Program receives $498,706 USDA grant
Rodale Institute and Delaware Valley University (DelVal) have been awarded a $498,706 grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture. The three-year Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program (BFRDP) grant will support the Organic Farming Program, a joint initiative between Rodale Institute and DelVal that prepares graduates for careers in organic agriculture. This is the second BFRDP grant the Organic Farming Program has received. The first, covering 2014 to 2017, was for approximately $370,000.
The 36-credit, one-year Organic Farming Program was established in 2012 and includes two semesters at the University and one semester at Rodale Institute. Students graduate with the knowledge and experience necessary to start a small-scale organic farm or work for an organic operation. The program offers assistance with job placement and developing business plans for farms so that graduates can easily move into organic agriculture careers.
“Having this support from the USDA shows that people are paying attention to organic agriculture,” said Lyndsey Antanitis, Rodale Institute’s veteran farming program coordinator. “There is a growing demand for organic products, and organic farming can be profitable while letting young people run their own business and support the environment. The interest in this program is growing. It’s helping people realize their dreams of being organic farmers and providing safe, healthy food.”
The Organic Farming Program is open to all students, but has been particularly popular with military veterans looking to transition into civilian careers. DelVal is a Yellow Ribbon Program school, and veterans can use their G.I. Bill benefits for the program. The program is growing and aims to enroll 43 new students, including 28 veterans, over the next three years.
The USDA’s Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program grants help address issues associated with the rising age and decreasing numbers of U.S. farmers. The grants support programs that provide education, mentoring and technical assistance to beginning farmers and ranchers.
“According to the 2012 Agriculture Census undertaken by the National Agricultural Statistics Service, the average age of the American farmer is approximately 59 years old,” said Sonny Ramaswamy, director of the UDSA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture. “The Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program provides the training and resources to attract a wide range of communities – veterans, refugees, socially disadvantaged farmers and ranchers, women, individuals from underrepresented groups, small farmers, aspiring farm workers and others – into farming and ranching.”
The USDA awarded 36 BFRDP grants totaling $17.7 million. Among the other recipients were Penn State and Cornell universities.