New Savings Incentive Program class selected by Practical Farmers of Iowa

Practical Farmers of Iowa has selected the eighth class of beginning farmers to enroll in its Savings Incentive Program, developed to help beginners establish viable, sustainable farm businesses. The 11 new participants in this class bring a total number of beginning farmers served by the program to 139.

The two-year program helps beginning and aspiring farmers reach their farming goals by pairing them with experienced farming mentors; providing targeted learning opportunities; offering business planning support and guidance; and giving participants the chance to save money and receive matching funds while learning how to build a profitable farm.

The new group of farmers makes up the Class of 2019 and represents a broad spectrum of farm enterprises that include fruits and vegetables; row crops; goats, lamb, cattle, hogs and poultry; and value-added products such as Christmas wreathes and baked goods. All of the farms are diversified with more than one enterprise. The farmers employ a variety of production practices, with a few farms certified organic and several more planning to be, and some using multi-species and rotational grazing, among other practices.

The 11 new Savings Incentive Program enrollees, listed alphabetically along with their hometowns, are as follows:

1. Andy and Betsy Boone—Lorimor;

2. Whitney Brewer—Johnston;

3. Garin and Kristten Buttermore—Ogden;

4. Brandon and Margo Friedlein—Guttenberg;

5. Heath Hoppes—Council Bluffs;

6. Jason and Angela Johnson—Derby;

7. Innocent Kabahizi and Marie Kashindi—West Des Moines;

8. Jake Kundert and Bridget Fonseca—Solon;

9. Alan and Andrea Spencer—Stanton;

10. Matthew and Donna Swanson—Story City; and

11. Mark and Theresa Westbrock—Waverly.

Many of the farmers mention the mentorship component of the program as a main driver for their participation.

“The most exciting aspect of the Savings Incentive Program is the opportunity to work with a mentor who can help guide my new farm in the right direction,” says Mark Westbrock of Waverly. “I am in SIP to increase my chances of success as a new farmer.” Westbrook and his wife, Theresa, are launching Solstice Farm this year, where they’ll raise pastured poultry, eggs, hogs and a fruit orchard.

Brandon and Margo Friedlein, of Friedlein Produce near Guttenberg, raise pumpkins, tomatoes, peppers and have a young apple orchard. They shared a similar sentiment about the benefits of working with a mentor who can help them to expand and improve their operation.

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“We want to make sure we are doing the right things to be profitable and provide our customers with a good product and an enjoyable purchasing experience.”

Along with mentorship guidance, participants are given business planning resources and opportunities to meet with business plan reviewers for personalized feedback. Structured program requirements encourage the beginning farmers to build or maintain an up-to-date business plan, an important component for any small business.

The savings aspect of the Savings Incentive Program works by encouraging enrollees to save up to $100 per month for two years. Upon completion of all program requirements, participants will earn a dollar-for-dollar match on money saved up to $2,400, for a possible $4,800 to use toward the purchase of a farm asset. The Friedleins plan to use their savings match for a tractor, eliminating the need to borrow equipment in the future, and the Westbrocks plan to either put their money toward a deer fence or a livestock trailer.

Practical Farmers will open applications for a ninth round of the Savings Incentive Program next fall. The Savings Incentive Program is part of Practical Farmers’ beginning farmer programming, which helps more than 1,600 beginning farmers in Iowa and surrounding states network with and learn from each other and experienced farmers through field days, farminars, workshops, retreats and other events.

The program is made possible through contributions by the United States Department of Agriculture—National Institute for Agriculture, Natural Resources Conservation Service, Clif Bar Foundation, Farm Aid and individual donations to Practical Farmers’ beginning farmer program.

To learn more about the Savings Incentive Program and the 11 new enrollees, visit