Locating Funds to Mitigate Risk on the Farm: Crop Insurance, SARE, USDA Beginning Farmer Initiative and Other Federal Programs


Monday, March 6, 2023


6:00pm – 8:00pm





In this workshop the following topics were covered:

  1. Crop insurance and what kind might be appropriate for your scale and type of operation.
  2. The Beginning Farmer and Rancher Initiative which can help you utilize the USDA’s many services and programs.
  3. Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education (SARE) - grants which you can utilize to implement innovative practices on your farm.

Link to: Fact Sheet - Locating Funds to Mitigate Risk on the Farm: Crop Insurance, SARE, USDA Beginning Farmer Initiative and Other Federal Programs

About the Presenters:

Devon Smolak has been serving producers in MA, NH, and ME as a crop insurance agent at Crop Growers LLP for 4 years and has worked on multiple farms in varying roles for 14 years. UMass undergraduate in sustainable horticulture and Texas A&M Master of Agribusiness graduate.

Candice Huber is a grant coordinator for Northeast SARE and manages the Farmer and Partnership Grant programs. She lives in Vermont and has a background in forestry and horticulture. Candice has worked for Northeast SARE for 16 years and is passionate about the sustainability of farming and our food systems.

Rachael Phillips-Barnes has a B.S. in Plant and Soil Science from the University of Massachusetts at Amherst. After graduation, Rachael accepted a permanent position with the Natural Resources Conservation Service where she has worked for the last 22 years. She has worked in many counties across MA as a Soil Conservationist and Natural Resources Specialist, and worked for NH NRCS as a District Conservationist, Resource Conservationist on the Operations Staff, and Program Manager on the Program Staff. In 2020 she accepted her current role as Assistant State Conservationist for Field Operations here in Massachusetts.

About the farmers sharing experiences:

Elly Vaughan is the owner and operator of Phoenix Fruit Farm in Belchertown, MA. She began her tenure at Phoenix as the manager, and then purchased the property from the former owners in 2017. Elly has an extensive background in organic farming and a commitment to responsible land stewardship and sustainable growing practices. These include not using pesticides and herbicides and instead focusing on varietal selection, fostering beneficial species such as native pollinators, and soil health.

Peter Lowy is the Farm Manager at Codman Community Farms a non-profit community farm located in Lincoln MA.  Pete has been managing the farm since 2016 and oversees all aspects of the operation.  Codman Farm manages 160 acres of land in Lincoln and Concord and grows 100% grass-fed cattle, pasture-raised pigs, laying hens, meat chickens, turkeys, lambs, and goats.  Pete has overseen the expansion and growth of the farm over the past seven years adding a new on-site farm store, 2-acre market garden, and recently a new commercial kitchen.  Prior to managing Codman Farm Pete and Jen (the director of New Entry) ran their own pasture-based livestock business called Pete and Jen's Backyard Birds and during that time Pete also was the assistant farm manager at Verrill Farm for 12 years.  Over the past 20 years Pete has received several research grants to investigate novel farming techniques and is always in search of new and innovative farming systems.

Additional Resources

Northeast SARE website includes all the information you need to apply for a grant as well as our educational resources
Figure out which grant is right for you
Northeast SARE Farmer Grant program summary

How to start a farm: beginner farmers and ranchers

NRCS: Find your local service center

This material is based upon work supported by USDA/NIFA under Award number 2021-70027-34693, as an effort to connect Massachusetts' Underserved and Beginning Producers to Safety Net and Farm Support Programs.