Penn State Extension Works to Support Farmers in their Start-Up and Establishing Years

Posted: October 7, 2015

Penn State is teaming up with establishing farmers to help new farmers become more profitable, productive, and sustainable. With funding from the USDA Beginning Farmer and Rancher project the Penn State Start Farming team is offering study circles, courses and “Models for the Future” demonstration plots.

Models for the Future

Penn State Extension has partnered with seven growers across Pennsylvania to participate in the “Models for the Future” program. “Models for the Future” will provide on-farm demonstration sites that illustrate best management practices and provide living classrooms for developing new farmer networks. Each of the seven growers are maintaining vegetable, berries and or fruit trees, over the course of three years. “Models for the Future” sites will provide cutting-edge knowledge for beginning farmers including proper soil, nutrient and cover crop management, disease and pest monitoring and management techniques, as well as general practices that can help improve overall production. Look out for case studies from each model plot as well as opportunities to visit the farms to see best management practices in the context of real farms.


Beginning Farmer Study Circles


Penn State Extension is teaming up with beginning and establishing growers (in years 2-10 of their operation) to offer study circle discussion groups. Study circle networks are located in four hubs across the state. Study circles are gatherings held in an informal environment that allow beginning farmers to learn from experienced growers and experts, compare notes with peers, and network over a shared meal.  In addition to touring and discussing the “Models for the Future” plots, farmers will have the chance to talk to each other about the challenges they face and the questions that are most important to them as their businesses evolve and expand, all within a local context.  The farmers’ interests will guide the meetings and meeting topics, from production practices, to marketing techniques and business strategies. The meetings are free for farmers and open to all interested persons. Study Circle event announcements, as well as summaries that highlight topics discussed at meetings will be posted at Contact Marley Skinner to find a network near you!


Pennsylvania New Women in Agricultural Study Circles

The Pennsylvania Women's Agricultural Network (PA-WAgN) works to encourage and support women in agriculture.  New Women in Agriculture Study Circles will allow women farmers to expand their networks with one another, educators and experts throughout the course of their start-up, re-strategizing and establishing phases of their agricultural business enterprise.  The study circles will be guided by the participant’s interests and questions, and held in on-farm or informal settings.  Topics for study circles will range from production and conservation practices to the social aspects of a career in agriculture including quality of life. Contact Patty Neiner (814) 865-7031  to find a network near you.


New Commercial Fruit Grower School


As the farming population ages, providing support and training opportunities to our new growers is increasingly important. Penn State Extension fruit specialists along with the help of experienced growers will hold 10 sessions that provide new growers with in-depth knowledge and best management practices specifically related to fruit production and marketing.  Class topics will include: economics of orchard start up; plant, soil and water relations; soil fertility, variety and root stock selection; major insect pests and diseases; integrated/organic pest management; pruning; fruit thinning; harvesting; farm food safety; and marketing.  Classroom and on-farm sessions will include discussion, hands-on exercises and farmer speakers.


Penn State offers opportunities for exploring, start-up, establishing, and next generation farmers. Visit to find resources that best fit where you are in your farm dream.


This project is supported by the Agriculture and Food Research Initiative of the National Institute of Food and Agriculture, Grant # 2015-70017-22852.