by David Erickson, Missoulian
If you are thinking about getting your hands dirty and making a living off the land, now is the time.
The Community Food and Agriculture Coalition, a nonprofit organization in Missoula, has been awarded a $250,000 grant to expand training for beginning farmers and ranchers in the state.
The money came from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program, which went to only 30 organizations in the country this year.
This is the first time the coalition has been awarded a fully funded grant, and it is also the first time an organization in Montana has received money from the program.
Annie Heuscher, the program director of the coalition, said the money will be used for workshops and resource development for beginning farmers across the state over the next three years.
“Over the past 15 years, the average age of farmers in Montana has gone up from 53 to almost 59 – and it’s even higher in Missoula County,” she explained. “That means that our overall population of farmers is aging rapidly and we need to be replenishing that pool with young people if we want Montana to remain an agricultural state. At the same time, we’re starting to see growth. Between 2007 and 2012, Montana gained 91 farmers under the age of 34. The future of Montana’s agriculture depends on cultivating and supporting this next generation.”
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