In early June, National Farmers Union announced the 15 participants selected for the fourth class of its Beginning Farmer Institute. Those selected for the next class are Nicole Vojtech of Ohio; Tracey Zink of Nebraska; Courtney Krueger of North Dakota; Chris Holman and Kriss Marion of Wisconsin; Harrison Topp of Colorado; Glen Hughes and Thomas Clark of Indiana; Erin Bailey of Washington; Rick Duvall of Illinois; Chelsea Kruse of New Hampshire; Troy Hunoff of South Dakota; Nicholas Levendofsky, Matt Ubel, and Leah Chamley of Kansas.
Nick, Matt, and Leah are Kansas’ first participants in NFU’s Beginning Farmer Institute (BFI), which will meet as a group for the first time in the days prior to Fly-In at NFU’s D.C. office in September. Matt, Leah, and their four children live and farm near Onaga, KS. Matt also works as a sales representative for Harveyville Seed Company, handling 285 accounts across northeast Kansas. Levendofsky lives near Courtland and farms with his parents on their diversified crop and livestock operation near Republic. He also serves as KFU’s communications coordinator.
“The Beginning Farmer Institute underscores our commitment to growing a new generation of family agriculture,” said NFU President Roger Johnson. “The program helps answer questions new farmers have. It also allows us to share our expertise to answer questions that people might not think of asking when they begin farming.”
Institute participants will meet several times over the next year to learn about financial planning, farm management, and farmer-owned cooperatives. In addition, they will help determine the agenda based on what they have identified as important to their operation. Topics include marketing, understanding U.S. Department of Agriculture programs, renewable energy, recording keeping, farm transitioning, and understanding the local food system.
“Farming is both a profession and a way of life, and it demands a lot from people,” said Johnson. “Farmers are entrepreneurs, conservationists, mechanics and managers, and they have to do all of these things well in order to operate a farm around the clock, month after month, year after year. They grow our nation’s food, feed, fuel and fiber from the ground up.”
The selected individuals from across the nation range from cattle ranchers and grain farmers to those growing for farmers markets to urban farmers. The program is sponsored in part by Farm Credit, CHS Foundation, FUI Foundation and the NFU Foundation.