Carlos Gonzalez Torrez is an experienced farmworker, hand picking artichoke, strawberry and Brussels sprouts for companies, but he always wanted to be a farmer on his own; today, with the education and experience from the Agricultural Land Based Training Association (ALBA); who works with the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Farm Production and Conservation (FPAC) Farm Service Agency (FSA); now he is a 2015 graduate of their Farmer Education Course (PEPA) and is now in his third of five (possible) incubator years where he rents farm land, currently 4.35 acres of ALBA’s 100 acre facility in Salinas, Ca., on Nov. 14, 2018.
The Agricultural Land Based Training Association (ALBA) is a training program that helps low income farmworkers and others learn how to become farmers. New farmers begin with a series of classroom courses and on-hands training, and graduate to farming their own piece of land on the farm. Eventually these new graduates hope to become successful farmers.
ALBA’s Farmer Education and Enterprise Development (FEED) Program educates and trains new farmer-entrepreneurs to plan, launch, and establish viable organic farm businesses or advance their careers. To accomplish this, ALBA has 100 acres of organic land, an experienced team with diverse expertise, and a hands-on, 5-year farmer development program. FEED is comprised of three main components:
1. The Farmer Education Course (PEPA) is a one year, bilingual, 300-hour curriculum featuring classroom instruction and field-based training, readying participants to launch an organic farm business.
2. The Organic Farm Incubator allows course graduates to launch their farm on ALBA’s land. Starting at ½ acre, farmers gradually scale up to 5 acres over 4 years under ALBA’s supervision before transitioning to fully independent farming.
3. ALBA Organics, aggregates, markets and ships participants’ products to growing markets around California. Doing so gives farmers access to clients that would otherwise be out of reach and allows them to focus on growing and business management in their initial years.
For more information about PEPA please see http://www.albafarmers.org/programs/
Farm Production and Conservation (FPAC) is the USDA’s focal point for the nation’s farmers and ranchers and other stewards of private agricultural lands and non-industrial private forest lands. FPAC agencies implement programs designed to mitigate the significant risks of farming through crop insurance services, conservation programs and technical assistance, and commodity, lending, and disaster programs. The FPAC team includes, Farm Service Agency (FSA) (https://www.fsa.usda.gov/), Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) (https://www.nrcs.usda.gov/wps/portal/nrcs/site/national/home/), and Risk Management Agency (RMA) (https://www.rma.usda.gov/).
Farm Service Agency (FSA) is equitably serving all farmers, ranchers, and agricultural partners through the delivery of effective, efficient agricultural programs for all Americans. FSA is a customer-driven agency with a diverse and multi-talented work force, dedicated to achieving an economically and environmentally sound future for American Agriculture. The vision is to be a market-oriented, economically and environmentally sound American agriculture delivering an abundant, safe, and affordable food and fiber supply while sustaining quality agricultural communities.
Here, FSA works with non-profit organizations such as ALBA to provide program information and outreach to beginning farmers, socially disadvantaged farmers and limited income farmers. ALBA works with a unique farmer base of nontraditional, diverse and beginning farmers.
FSA staff has worked with ALBA for many years in the following ways:
1. Provide classroom training to new ALBA students at the ALBA farm during their regular coursework. FSA provides training on:
a. How to apply for a farm loan and prepare a cash flow statement.
b. How to apply for FSA programs that help with risk management on the farm, such as the Noninsured Crop Disaster Assistance Program (NAP) or other regional crop insurance options.
c. How to apply for Disaster Assistance through FSA in case of an adverse weather event or other emergency.
2. FSA has provided micro loans, operating loans and ownership loans to help ALBA farmers become independent and successful in their operations. FSA has provided Emergency Conservation Program (ECP) and Noninsured Disaster Assistance Program (NAP) payments to these farmers.
3. FSA has provided bookkeeping training courses to ALBA students, on farm tours, and has helped students apply for USDA scholarships to attend agricultural conferences and other trainings.
4. FSA has referred ALBA farmers to NRCS for help with resource management issues.
“These farmers are the future face of American Agriculture. It is so important for FSA to help them get a strong start in ensuring the success of their operations, said FSA County Executive Director Vivian Soffa. Carlos will need support when he graduates from ALBA and hopefully FSA will be able to assist him with his capital needs when he is farming on his own in this very competitive agriculture market. Familiarity with FSA’s programs at the beginning of a new farmer’s endeavor may be the difference between success and failure.”
For more information please see www.usda.gov.
USDA Photo by Lance Cheung.