The Farm Business Development Center prepares beginning farmers to meet the demand for locally grown organic food in the Chicago region.
The Liberty Prairie Foundation’s Farm Business Development Center (FBDC) provides new farmers with a head start by beginning their business in an incubator setting with affordable access to certified organic land near the Chicago-area customer base, and access to experienced mentor farmers. Demand is high for locally grown organic food, and the FBDC is successfully launching new farm businesses to meet consumer demand.
The FBDC provides aspiring farmers with a proving ground to begin their own farm business alongside other beginning and more experienced farmers. FBDC farmers are interested in professional farming and need to gain experience managing their own growing operation, marketing their products through different types of distribution channels, and building financial records so their farm can access financing as their business grows and transitions to a permanent location in the future. The proximity to other new and experienced farmers including mentors such as Prairie Wind Family Farms creates a unique, informal setting for networking, problem solving, and professional development opportunities that are invaluable.
Through the FBDC, new farmers lease small parcels of certified organic farmland, have affordable access to the necessary equipment and infrastructure, and gradually scale up their farm business. Rather than purchasing a tractor or renting one for the entire season, FBDC farmers can rent a tractor by the hour so they only pay for the tractor-time they need. Similarly, instead of erecting a greenhouse, they can rent space in an existing greenhouse. Farmers gain hands-on farming experience and continue to build their capacity during their time in the FBDC. They gradually expand to farm approximately 5 acres in the FBDC, and are expected to “graduate” to a permanent location within 5 years.