#456. Viva Farms Incubator Program

Posted on | The Agurban

Viva Farms Incubator Program

Last week we shared with you information about Global Entrepreneurship Week in the State of Washington. We have since learned about another program in the state that aims to lure young people “back to the farm”.

In Mike Flynn’s ezine, Flynn’s Harp, (http://www.emikeflynn.com/blog/) Mike details the Viva Farms Incubator Program in Skagit County, Washington. Following is an excerpt from Flynn’s Harp:

… in Washington State’s Skagit County, which boasts land that is rated in the top 2 percent in the world for agricultural use, the Viva Farms Incubator Program is proving that young people from rural areas can be lured not just back home, but back to the farm.

The four-year-old Viva Farms project, aimed at preserving the region’s exceptional farmland in the face of intense development pressure, is one of numerous programs that have sprouted to help train and provide financial assistance to a new wave of farmers.

While Viva Farms and similar programs that have sprouted in other regions are primarily attracting immigrants and young people with non-farming backgrounds, there is a growing interest for children of old farmers who are returning to the family farm with fresh ideas.

Spurred by the designation from the American Farmland Trust for Skagit County as the fifth most threatened agricultural region in the nation, creators of the incubator program set out to provide new farmers affordable access to education that includes land and infrastructure, training and technical assistance, start-up loans and distribution support.

Whether next-generation farmers, immigrants or non-farm young people, those involved in the incubator farm program being carried out on 33 acres leased from the Port of Skagit are pursuing farm careers as a means to embody their social, cultural, environmental and economic values, according to creators of the program.

With the incubator in its first development phase, including completion of the first bilingual courses on sustainable farming and “agricultural entrepreneurship,” there are already thoughts about expanding the reach of the program.

Ethan Schaffer, executive director of Viva Farms and founder of the now-international Growfood.org, whose mission is to train a new generation of sustainable farmers and to reconnect people with farms, says other communities have reached out to get an assist to launch Viva Farm-like programs in regions across Washington State and beyond.

Schaffer notes that the back-to-the-farm segment of the “student” farmers “have different values, goals and motivation in their desire to return to farming.”

We certainly appreciate the efforts put forth in the Viva Farms Incubator Program! We see programs such as this as key to sustaining the family farm lifestyle.