A Beginning Farmer Incubator

National Institute of Food & Agriculture

Tune Farm, in partnership with the Small Farms Research Center at Alabama A&M University and Rosita’s Farm, is participating as an incubator in the Beginning Farmer & Rancher Development Program, funded by the USDA’s National Institute of Food & Agriculture. The BFRDP is an initiative designed to offer education, training, outreach and mentoring programs to new and beginning farmers in Northern Alabama.

Tune Farm is currently in it’s third year as a Beginning Farmer Incubator. Thanks to the BFRDP grant, we have been able to incubate five beginning and will welcome two of our newest “farmers-in-training” to the incubator program in the spring of 2016, making “seven” the official number of young farmers that NIFA and the Small Farms Research Center at AAMU have enabled us to incubate successfully at Tune Farm through our inclusion in the BFRDP grant.

 

A New Direction….

Tune Farm Annie Portrait

Founding Farmer Diane “Annie” Tune

In the wake of Tune Farm’s founding farmer, Diane Tune’s passing, it seemed impossible to imagine a future for the farm without her.

Just a few months before her death, Diane learned that Tune Farm would be a sub-awardee of a grant for the USDA’s Beginning Farmer & Rancher Development Program. For the Tune Family, it felt as though she’d left a road map to guide the farm’s future.

The BFRDP grant gave us a new sense of purpose and direction at a time when the farm’s future, without Diane, had seemed painfully uncertain.

We feel extremely fortunate to have been awarded this grant and it has made it possible for us to continue the work that Diane began. Although the farm has offered paid internships since its inception, the BFRDP grant has given us the opportunity to do much more.

 

Tune Farm Alabama's First Certified Organic Farm

Tune Farm…the road to bountiful.

While the learning curve for this conversion from being a for profit, certified organic vegetable farm to a beginning farmer incubator has been steep and not without its challenges, it has been extremely rewarding to know that Tune Farm has been able to effectively participate in a growing movement in the U.S. to educate and foster the next generation of beginning farmers.

We are blessed to be able to share the farm’s incredible resources of land, fertility and existing infrastructure to grow the next generation of Alabama’s  farmers — none of which would have been possible without the support of AAMU’s Small Farms Research Center and the USDA’s National Institute of Food & Agriculture.”        

                 — The Tune Family

 

 BFRDP OVERVIEW HEADER

Many young people have little or no experience in sustainable, organic farming practices and the business of farming — others may have sufficient knowledge and experience, but insufficient access to the essential infrastructure (land, equipment, adequate housing, etc) needed to found their own farm enterprises. With it’s farmer-to-farmer training and the development of its beginning farmer incubator program, Tune Farm has been able to address both of these needs.

As part of this three-year, federally funded Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program, Tune Farm has established a new incubator farm site on their 260 acre farm in Morgan County, Alabama to recruit, grow and assist new and beginning farmers and ranchers in Alabama through mentoring, hands-on, farmer-to-farmer training and farm incubator experience and support.

This effort is being conducted in collaboration with the Alabama A&M University (AAMU) Small Farm Research Center, Rosita’s Farm, Alabama Cooperative Extension System (ACES), Alabama Sustainable Agriculture Network (ASAN), Alabama Agricultural A+ Marketing Association and the Federation of Southern Cooperatives (FSC). As one of only two small Alabama farms participating in the Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program, Tune Farm is deepening its commitment to foster our nation’s next generation of young farmers.

Tune Farm is now in it’s third and final year in partnership with AAMU as a recipient of the USDA Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program grant. We will continue to develop the infrastructure of Tune Farm as an organic, sustainable farm and as part of our Beginning Farmer Incubator Program…hopefully, for many, many, many years to come.

“Thank you to the USDA for sponsoring this grant, to AAMU for our inclusion there-in, to Karen Wynne of Rosita’s Farm (friend, mentor and fellow BFRDP grant awardee), Healthy Earthworks Foundation and RC&D for their many years of support, to the fearless and fabulous April Hobbs (former intern, farm manager and Co-Director in our first year as an incubator), all of Tune Farm’s HARD-working interns and volunteers, so many loyal fans and friends — and my family, those of us with our feet still planted in terra firma and you, our beloved departed, whose presence and love we feel with every step we take.”

— Lisa Tune

 

Meet Tune Farm's Incubating Farmers

 

Lindsay Whiteaker and Pete Halupka of Harvest Roots Farm are in only their second year as beginning farmers.
Lindsay & Pete

Lindsay & Pete

“We believe in intensively growing clean and accessible food with focus and concern for our ecological and social impact. Through focusing on and applying principles of permaculture, farming becomes about both internal and external cultivation; as the plants and animals on the farm grow and evolve, so too will our ideals and philosophies — we see this as true ecological soundness.

Our experience at Tune Farm has allowed us the opportunity to spend a lot of time observing landform, with the aim to move water passively through our farm. We have implemented multiple systems of raised beds on contour, the space between the beds doubling as pathways and as furrows that allow us to flood irrigate. We also catch and absorb all the rain that falls on our plot, with overflows to help us avoid the issue of flooding out in large rain events. An abundant resource here is the hay, which is spread thick across the beds keeping them moist and free of weeds. Often we don’t have to water for long periods of time, we are interested in drought and water efficient farming. The beds are intended to not be tilled again, and we will continue to build them up and keep them filthy by adding large amounts of vegetative matter for mulch. Another project has been to hand dig a pond in the chicken and duck yard that catches and stores rainwater from the building that houses the animals. The runoff passively waters and fertilizes a young orchard bellow it. It is exciting to be able to participate in the incubator program at Tune Farm, because it is facilitating young motivated farmers to run a business and work and improve upon sustainable farming methods and permaculture.”

— Lindsay Whiteaker (Harvest Roots Farm)

 

Liz Meyer and Will Doonan of Heron Hollow Farm, have been farming for several years and are very accomplished farmers, yet still technically considered beginning farmers until they reach their ten year benchmark.

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Will & LIz, with daughter, Ava

“We are a family­-owned business in operation since Spring of 2008. Our methods of growing and providing foods of the highest standard we a consistent basis to our local community over the last six years reflect our desires to: 1.) Aid in nutritional enhancement for people of all walks of life in our area through education and developing personal relationships with our customers, 2.) Show respect to the ecological and socio­economic systems surrounding our farm while also preventing fuel waste in long distance food transport, 3.) Engage our community members in the miracle of growing food and encourage participation in from hands on field work to conscious consumerism in, the hopes of fostering a better future for agricultural practices in Northern and Central Alabama.

It is a joy to participate in the growth, learning, and momentum in the projects, made possible by grants and the Tune Family’s generosity. They are allowing their incredibly fertile land to serve the purpose of fostering a new generation of farmers in Alabama. We could not imagine a more appropriate fit for our family’s passions to grow the highest quality food we can produce, and to share knowledge, skills and enthusiasm we have gained with others.”

— Liz Meyer (Heron Hollow Farm)