GRANTVILLE - With less than two percent of Americans calling themselves farmers and many of those earning more than half of their income off the farm, beginners ask, "How can I get into farming in the current farm economy? What does it take?'

Pennsylvania Farm Link's Beginning Farmer workshop to be held in Grantville Feb. 17, will emphasize that a successful farm start-up is not dependent on age, size, type of farm operation, or previous career selection. Instead, success relies more on negotiating a good fit between your personal and financial resources, your farm and family goals, and the way you decide to enter farming.

Pennsylvania Agriculture Secretary Samuel E. Hayes Jr. will welcome beginners with encouraging remarks on a career in agriculture. FFA students, other students, and interested adults will learn how Pennsylvania is encouraging new farm entry.

Keynote speaker, Steve Stevenson from the University of Wisconsin will present the results of his research with more than 325 beginning farmers who started farming between 1993 and 1995. He will provide insight for new farmers on what other beginning farmers used to be successful. Career entry pathways include taking over your family farm, taking over another family farm, starting from scratch and doing an apprenticeship in production agriculture.

The workshop will also include real-world discussions with Pennsylvania's innovative beginning farmers from a variety of backgrounds and enterprises. They will share their experience in taking the reins from other family members, taking over a non-family operation, or starting on their own from scratch. Types of farms include dairy, beef, fruit and vegetables, specialty crops, cooperative members, direct marketers, and wholesalers.

Though young, many of these farmers are recognized as industry leaders, including this year's winners of the Pennsylvania Farm Bureau Young Farmer and Rancher Achievement Award. In addition to explaining how they got started in farming, these beginners will report on how they are juggling farm and family pressures, benchmarks they have established for success, how to start a community supported agriculture operation, and how apprentice programs help you get a foothold in the industry.

Participants will receive practical knowledge and advice on how to select an enterprise, how to convince your banker you have what it takes, and how to scout out the market and developing a business plan.

The workshop will be held on Saturday, Feb. 17 at the Holiday Inn in Grantville, from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. The cost of the workshop is $30 for an individual, $50 for a couple and $20 for a student. Registration is required by Feb. 12 and includes lunch. Contact Pennsylvania Farm Link at (717) 664-7077 or e-mail at pafarmlink@redrose.net for more information and a brochure.

Pennsylvania Farm Link is a non-profit organization governed by a Board of Directors representing diverse agricultural interests and works to "create farming opportunities for the next generation.'

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