Small Farm Outreach Program
The Small Farm Outreach Program (SFOP), which is part of Cooperative Extension at Virginia State University, educates and empowers small, limited-resource, socially disadvantaged and veteran farmers and ranchers to own, operate and sustain farms and ranches independently with agricultural training programs that improve their farm management skills and quality of life.
The SFOP provides outreach and learning opportunities to small farmers for production management, financial and risk management, marketing, USDA assistance programs and more that are designed to improve farm profitability and promote sustainability. Currently, the program provides educational programming in approximately 74 Virginia counties, which have the highest concentrations of limited-resource, socially disadvantaged and veteran farmers in the state.
Participation in the program is voluntary and open to all. Most educational programs are offered free of charge and available to both new and prospective farmers who are interested in receiving outreach and technical assistance. Farmers are recruited through referrals from FSA, community leaders, other farmers, phone calls, home/farm visits, mailings, and farm-related meetings.
THE SMALL FARM OUTREACH PROGRAMS HELPS FARMERS
Establish and Manage Your Farm Business
SFOP helps those who are interested in establishing farming operations with introductory workshops that can give them the foundation they need to get started. Training and technical assistance are provided in all areas of farm business management which include record keeping, analysis, farm planning, enterprise budgeting, financial management, marketing, and the economics of alternative enterprises. Transition and estate planning are also included as part of a holistic approach to farm sustainability over generations.
Educational programming teaches farmers effective management strategies to reduce or prevent some of the many risks they face. Risk Management education and training covers five major areas: crop/livestock production, marketing, financial, legal, and human resources. Risk Management is offered via workshops, group meetings, one-on-one farm visits, newsletters, fact sheets and field days.
Connect With USDA Resources
Farmers receive assistance from their small farm outreach agent or a USDA representative to prepare applications for USDA Farm Service Agency (FSA) direct and guaranteed loans. Beginning, minority and veteran farmers can get help with their application to obtain farm ownership and operating loans and get the required borrower training for these types of loans. SFOP also provides information and assistance to help farmers who are applying for grants from USDA, including the Rural Development Renewable Energy for America (REAP) grant and loan guarantee program, Value-Added Producer Grant (VAPG) program, and Rural Business Enterprise Grant (RBEG) program.
Access Expert Training and Services
Farmers receive information and technical assistance to ensure they have access to all services available through USDA, state, and local agencies as well as businesses and organizations that support agricultural enterprises—especially those that serve minority, limited-resource and veteran farmers.. Small Farm Agents serve 74 counties in Virginia and provide education, demonstrations, and hands-on training in their regional areas. They also conduct one-on-one farm visits throughout the year to keep farmers informed and engaged in building and sustaining their farm operation. Community organizations, including religious organizations and key community leaders, are also important partners in helping to expand our outreach.
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