The Massachusetts chapter of the Northeast Organic Farming Association. NOFA/Mass welcomes everyone who cares about food, where it comes from and how it’s grown

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NOFA/Mass’s Beginning Farmer Program: Supporting Massachusetts’s next generation of farmers

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This article comes from the NOFA/Massachusetts 2016 November Issue Newsletter

By Brittany Overshiner

According to the USDA’s 2012 agricultural census, farming is in need of new blood.  The average age of the American farmer was 58 years and rising, with fewer people entering the field.  The hurdles faced by beginning farmers are great, and at NOFA/Mass we aim to provide support and affordable educational opportunities for beginning farmers, to ease their transition into the profession.

Mentorship Program

Each year, NOFA/Mass pairs 10 Beginning Farmers who have proven their dedication to the profession with successful Farmer mentors in their area of the state.  Mentees create a list of goals for the mentorship, specifying what skills they wish to develop, and work with their mentors on these goals. 

The mentorship includes admission to the Winter and Summer Conferences, where the mentees get together to share their experiences, learning from one another how best to take advantage of their mentor relationship.  The program also covers $100 worth of admission to on farm workshops hosted by NOFA/Mass throughout the state.  Mentees can choose the workshops that best fit their learning goals.

We are accepting applications for the 2017 Beginning Farmer Mentorship program from November 1 – December 1, 2016.

Click here to apply for the 2017 Mentorship Program.

This program is most effective for beginning farmers with at least a few years of experience.  If you are a beginning farmer just starting on your career path, the best way to gain knowledge and experience is to work on a farm. 

NOFA/Mass provides a listing of apprenticeships and entry-level jobs throughout the state of Massachusetts that give beginning farmers the chance to experience a real, working farm. Working on a farm is a great way to gain hand-on knowledge of production practices that can be used and developed throughout your farming career.  It is also an excellent way to build a network of other beginning and experienced farmers, farm service providers and other important community members that will be an integral part of developing your career path.

If you are a beginning farmer looking for guidance on how to best develop your skills and achieve your farming goals, contact our coordinator for a one-on-one consultation:

Also, for any beginning farmer with ten years experience or less, NOFA/Mass provides 50% matching scholarships for all of our education events and conferences.  We have increased our funding for this scholarship program by 50% for 2017, and look forward to giving more beginning farmers access to high-quality farm education.

Sometimes, getting off the farm or finding time and funding to travel to statewide events can be a challenge for beginning farmers who work long hours.  Our new webinars series, Inspiring Ideas from Experts in the Field, is free for all participants, and each presentation is archived on our YouTube Channel so farmers can view and re-watch recordings after the fact.  Make sure to check out the schedule for the rest of 2016, which includes a presentation on “Raising Pastured Turkeys” by Julie Rawson of Many Hands Organic Farm in Barre, MA (Tuesday, November 29) and  “Creating a Just, Sustainable Food System through Global Exchange” with Leah Penniman of Soul Fire Farm in Upstate New York(Tuesday, December 13).  Both will run from 7-8pm.

The Beginning Farmer Program is funded through grants and private donations.  If you are interested in supporting our Beginning Farmer Work please contact our coordinator:

Many Thanks to Our Current Funders

The Walsh Foundation

The Rose Foundation

Simply Organic 1% Foundation


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