For young farmers, state loan program makes starting a farm easier
Delaware’s Department of Agriculture is now offering loans for the seventh year in a row to young farmers to help them get started in the business.
The long-term no-interest loans are available to farmers between the ages of 18 and 40 to assist them with buying land to start their farm.
“And we find that this is one of the biggest challenges for young people to get over when they’re trying to get into farming,” said Stacey Hofmann, a spokeswoman for the Department of Agriculture.
Harrington farmer Jared Kauffman says he knows the struggle with starting a farm all too well. Born and raised on a family farm, the 29-year-old got a loan through the Young Farmers Loan Program four years ago, but before a friend told him about the program, he wasn't sure he was even capable of aquiring land and starting his own farm.
He’s now using the money to cover the land for two farms over a 30-year period.
“Back when I wanted to do it, it seemed impossible really to begin to try to even start,” Kauffman said. “Just between the land and then having to get the equipment also, it would be hard to get into. I’m fortunate to have my dad and I can use his equipment. We trade off.”
Kauffman now raises chickens and grows corn, soybeans and wheat across a 96-acre farm and a recently-purchased 94-acre farm.
In the future, Kauffman said, he’d like to have his loan mostly paid off.
“I want to be self-sufficient. I want to be able to support myself on my own farm,” he said. “Right now, I’m still working for dad and my wife still works. I’d like to be able to support myself and my family and keep growing.”
He’s also thinking about going organic.
But not all young farmers or aspiring young farmers have the advantage Kauffman did of growing up on a farm and having farming in his blood. The agriculture department says one of the requirements for people seeking a loan is they must have at least three years of farming experience.
“The three years really gives an idea that they understand what is involved when they come to the financials as well as working the land,” Hofmann said.
Hofmann says people with no farming experience can work as a farm-hand or intern to get experience before applying for a loan.
Over the last six years since the program started, the department has given more than $7 million in Young Farmers Loans to 33 individuals or couples to help them get into farming. Land that is purchased through the program is preserved through the state’s Agricultural Lands Preservation Foundation permanently, the department said.
Hoffman says this year they have $500,000 in funding to distribute to farmers who join the program.
People looking to get a loan through the Young Farmers Loan can apply now through Nov. 30.