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Farming and Ranching


Establish Beginning Farm and Ranch Incubator Programs

Help young farmers and ranchers get started

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Tool Information


  1. Youth
  2. New Models
  3. Jobs
  4. Entrepreneurship


Farm incubators are typically one or more parcels of land that are set aside in a trust or easement specifically dedicated to controlled-lease operations that encourage small-scale and innovative agricultural practices that might otherwise be discouraged by large scale farm economics. Often one or more new farmers will farm and market products under their own farm business enterprise, often with access to training programs and technical assistance opportunities about farm business and production practices. These farmers gain access to the land in exchange for some form of “rent” that may also take the form of fresh farm products or other services donated to communities in need.

Image Credit: Dwight Sipler


The average age of Kansas Farmers is 58.2 years old (2012 Agricultural Census).  If younger farmers are not beginning farm businesses who will provide food in the future.  Most food to support local communities is imported from other parts of the country and from other countries.  Creating a supply and demand for locally grown food strengthens the local economy and keeps the communities wealth and nutrients local. 

Access to land is one to the barriers to new farmers. If new farmers can find ways to gain access to land and at the same time provide local goods and food to those in need within the region, it is a win-win opportunity.  It has the added benefit of maintaining extended family structure, local knowledge and culture so that Kansas’ greatest export doesn’t become its young people.  In time new farm enterprises experience success and break away into more independent business operations.  Because new and young farmers are encouraged to experiment they are likely to come up with new models that could improve the future of farming and ranching within the region.  

Additional Information

 "2012 Census of Agriculture: Preliminary Highlights for Kansas." Gardner Edge, March 3, 2014.

Center for Environmental Farming Systems: Farm Incubator Project
In North Carolina there is a Farm Incubator program sponsored by the National Institute of Food and Agriculture, part of the USDA in which five communities applied and received funding through the Bring New Farmers to the Table Project.  Four of these communities moved forward and are currently in a development or implementation phase of their incubator projects.  http://www.cefs.ncsu.edu/whatwedo/foodsystems/projectpartners.html 

North Carolina State University: 10% for local food campaign

Lelekacs, Joanna Massey and Mike Morris. 2013. Incubator Farms for North Carolina: A White Paper (.pdf)

Boekelheide, Don and Joanna Massey Lelekacs. 2013. Incubator Farm Resources and Funding – A Start-up Guide. Center for Environmental Farming Systems.  (.pdf) 

Lelekacs, Joanna. 2013. Local Food System Stakeholders for Community Engagement. Center for Environmental Farming Systems. (.pdf) 

Lelekacs, Joanna. 2013. Incubator Farm Work Breakdown Structure Foundation: Project Aspects to Consider When Starting Program Design.Center for Environmental Farming Systems. (.pdf) 

Lelekacs, Joanna. 2013. Site Design Programming for an Incubator Farm:  Considerations for Site Selection / Site DesignCenter for Environmental Farming Systems. (.pdf)

National Incubator Farm Training Initiative (NIFTI) 
The New Entry Sustainable Farming Project in Massachusetts has partnered with a number of other nationally-recognized incubator farms on a National Incubator Farm Training Initiative (NIFTI) for startup incubator farms. You can learn more about their program on their website.

Farm Incubator Toolkit

Carolina Farm Stewardship Association Farm Incubator Project 
The Carolina Farm Stewardship Association, funded by the Ben and Jerry’s Foundation, engaged in a Farm Incubator Project between 2007 and 2009.  This project provided outreach and consultation for existing and proposed incubator farms across the state. The following documents and webinar are outputs of this project and can be useful resources for new incubator farms.

  1. Carolina Farm Stewardship Association (CFSA) and Ben and Jerry’s Foundation Farm Incubator Development Project Final Report
    Summary of the outreach and consultation efforts made through CFSA’s Farm Incubator Project.
  2. Important Considerations for Incubator Farms
    Important considerations for new incubator farms including land, equipment/ infrastructure, experience /mentorship, market/ business components, housing, insurance, and land linkages once the farmers are leaving the incubator farm.

http://start2farm.gov/  A USDA program to help new farmers find information. 

http://www.farmaid.org/site/apps/nlnet/content2.aspx?c=qlI5IhNVJsE&b=2723877&content_id={719CAB69-0D9D-457B-89D4-6FD0CB666BAA}&notoc=1&msource=adwords&gclid=CI-zu7fYwcACFQxp7AodiEwAzQ  Farm Aide Resources

http://www.beginningfarmers.org/ Beginning Farmer Business Classes & Education resources

Implementation Strategy

Champions and Partners

National Incubator Farm Training Initiative

Kansas Center for Sustainable Agriculture and Alternative Crops

Kansas State Farm Service Agency

Kansas Farmers Union

Kansas State University

Farm Aid


Medium (3-8 years)



Cost Details

  • Staff
  • Legal advice
  • Host networking and educational forums

Funding Sources

  • National Incubator Farm Training Initiative
  • Farm Aid
  • Kansas State Farm Service Agency
  • Kansas Farmers Union
  • Kansas State University
  • Farm Aid
  • National Institute of Food and Agriculture (USDA)

Implementation Details

A brief outline of the first few steps necessary for implementation are provided. The steps outlined here are provided only as a suggested starting point and other approaches are certainly valid.

  • Determine a convening organization
  • Dedicate staff to research the legal implications of setting up land trusts
  • Find the land and make agreements
  • Develop an outreach and education program
  • Provide training education programs as well as networking opportunities for young farmers

Case Study

Farm Incubators

The Intervale Center

Located in Burlington, Vermont and is the oldest incubator farm in North America, founded in 1988.The Intervale Center supports beginning farmers in Burlington by eliminating their barriers to farming. The Farms Program leases land, equipment, greenhouses, irrigation and. storage facilities. In addition, new farmers receive subsidized rental rates, business planning support and mentorship from established growers.The Farms Program also contributes jobs to the Burlington area. The Farms Program is split into to categories: the mentor farms and the incubator farms. Mentor farms have no tenure and more responsibility like mentoring new farmers. The incubator farms are limited to five years and develop farmers to build their farm businesses. http://www.intervale.org/what-we-do/farms-program/

Image from the website

Four North Carolina Incubator Farms for Beginning Farmers

Onslow County
This incubator project involves a collaboration among the Onslow County Farmers Market, NC Cooperative Extension, and  the Natural Resources Conservation Services. For more information, contact Larry Kent, Onslow County Cooperative Extension, 910.455.5873 or Larry_Kent@ncsu.edu.

Robbins, Moore County

This project is an effort organized by the Town of Robbins and a growing number of partners in the community. For more information and contact information, visit the town's website. http://www.townofrobbins.com/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=83&Itemid=90


Wilmington, New Hanover County
LINC’s Urban Farm, in partnership with Southeastern North Carolina Food Systems Program, Feast Down East, is working with individuals returning from incarceration in New Hanover County. For more information, visit their website:  http://www.townofrobbins.com/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=83&Itemid=90


Guilford County
Piedmont Conservation Council, the Elon Center for Environmental Studies, Guilford County, and others are partnering to study the feasibility of and plan a farm incubator in the Eastern Triad area to provide space, training, and support for new and beginning farmers. For more information, contact Jacob Leech, 919.300.1628 or jacobleech@piedmontconservation.org.


Since rural areas experience youth migration, it’s crucial for farming programs to encourage youth to become farmers.  One reason youth leave rural areas is for employment opportunities. These programs give them the skills necessary for employment in rural areas. They also help youth develop important skills like entrepreneurship and civic responsibility.