June 27, 2012,  From the Virginia Department of Agriculture & Consumer Services:

VIRGINIA  ANNOUNCES CERTIFIED FARM SEEKER  PROGRAM                                                                                                                                                                                                                Contact: Elaine J. Lidholm, 804.786.7686

In  a reversal of trends over the past couple of generations, young people today  seem to be returning to the farm, or they would if they could just find one.  Farming is an occupation that is asset heavy – land, equipment, buildings,  machinery, livestock – and all of those assets are expensive. A mid-size farm,  if you can find one for sale, can run into hundreds of thousands or even  millions of dollars. Some farmers are making a living on thirty acres or fewer.  But if a would-be farmer really wants a farm with all the acreage, barns,  sheds, tractors, planters, sprayers, combines and harvesters, what is he or she  to do?

Thanks to a new program offered by the  Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (VDACS) and the  Virginia Farm Bureau’s Young Farmers Committee, would-be farmers can become a  Certified Farm Seeker, a designation that lets landowners know you are serious  about farming.

The Certified Farm Seeker (CFS) program  is designed for farmers at all levels: beginning, established or transitioning.  The program’s goal is to provide individuals who want to farm with the tools  needed to successfully demonstrate their farming commitment and vision to  interested landowners. Those who earn the title Certified Farm Seeker stand out  from the crowd. Landowners know these individuals are serious about  establishing a farm enterprise and have completed the planning necessary for  long-term success.

Agriculture is a business; in fact, it  is Virginia’s largest industry. And like any other business, would-be farmers  need a sound business plan as a first step on the road to their goal of farm  ownership. The CFS Program is designed around helping interested farmers  produce a business plan and resume, as well as demonstrate on-farm experience.  Five Whole Farm Planning Modules are available as resources to guide seekers  through this process. Each module contains objectives, questions and possible  activities to help beginning farmers reach their goals. The curriculum is  designed to be flexible and can be applied to farmers at every experience  level.

When aspiring farmers complete the CFS  program, they gain many rewards. They receive professional review of their  business plan at reduced or no cost. They receive priority in the Virginia Farm  Link database, an online resource designed to link farm owners interested in  exiting agriculture with those seeking farms and farm businesses, thereby  increasing the farm seekers’ chances of being contacted by a landowner. They  receive invitations to numerous networking and social opportunities to interact  with other farmers and landowners. And they may even receive time with a  transition mediator or attorney at reduced or no cost.

“I was one of the lucky ones,” said  Matthew J. Lohr, VDACS Commissioner. “I grew up on a family farm and retain an  interest in that farm today. But not everyone is so lucky, and for those who  want to turn their childhood fascination with machinery, plant and animals into  a viable business, the Certified Farm Seeker Program is just the tool to get  them started and to ensure their success.”

The Certified Farm Seeker Program will  be officially unveiled at the Virginia Farm Bureau’s Young Farmers Summer Expo  July 27 – 29 in Lynchburg. One of the Expo components is an informative session  on the Certified Farm Seeker Program. Registration is free and information is  available by contacting Ron Saacke at 804.514.4202 or Click here for additional  information on the Certified Farm Seeker Program.

The Certified Farm Seeker Program is a  partnership between Virginia Farm Bureau’s Young Farmers and the Virginia  Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, made possible by Virginia  Beginning Farmer and Rancher Coalition Project through Virginia Tech and  revenue generated from the Virginia Agriculture specialty license plate.

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