Founded in 1990, the Farms Program is one of the oldest incubator farm programs in the United States. The Intervale Center leases land, equipment, greenhouses, irrigation and storage facilities to small independent farms. Each year, these farms produce fresh produce, eggs, meat, and flowers on 135 acres of land and contribute about 60 full-time, part-time and seasonal jobs to the Burlington economy.
The Farms Program removes start-up barriers that typically challenge new farmers such as:
- Access to land, infrastructure, business planning assistance, and markets
- Access to a community of knowledgeable growers
Each year, between one and three new farm businesses join the program as incubators, receiving subsidized rental rates, business planning support and mentorship from established growers.
The current incubator farms in the Intervale include:
The Intervale Center currently leases land to 7 mentor farms. These farms serve as established businesses that provide mentorship to the incubator farms and leadership in the agricultural community. They are vital to the success of the Intervale Center.
The current mentor farms in the Intervale are:
The Farms Program has contributed to the success of over 40 farms since its inception. Here are just a few examples of Farms Program successes.
Intervale Bean and Grain/Elmer Farm: Incubator from 2004-2006. Spencer Blackwell joined the Farms Program in 2004 with the goal of growing dry beans and experimenting with grain production. His wife, Jennifer, joined him on the farm in 2005, starting a small market garden and selling produce to area wholesale accounts. In total, the farm grew 32 acres of beans, grains and vegetables for three seasons in the Intervale. With over 20 years of farming experience between them, the family applied for and purchased a conserved farm in East Middlebury through the Vermont Land Trust (http://www.vlt.org), becoming two of the first participants in VLT’s Farm Access Program. Since 2006, they have worked to re-establish their farm as Elmer Farm and diversify their offerings while renovating an old farmhouse and raising two young children. They now grow 25 acres of grains, dry beans and veggies, manage a small CSA, and support local farm-to-school and gleaning efforts in Addison County.
Intervale Community Farm: Founded in 1989, this consumer-cooperative provides organic produce for over 500 households each year. In 1989, 3 community gardeners merged to become Intervale Community Farm, Vermont’s first CSA farm, a 1.5 acre farm which produced crops valued at less than $1,500. In 1990, ICF grew with the addition of 2 more farmers. Crop values soared to about $34,000 from four acres of land. From 1991 to 1993, the number of farmers grew to seven, land under cultivation increased to 36 acres and the value of 1993 crops was approximately $125,000. As “incubator farmers” matured, the Intervale Farmers’ Cooperative, or what is now the Farms Program, was born. In this way, ICF is the Farms Program’s incubator! Now a 56+-acre consumer owned cooperative farm, ICF is a model for sustainable land management, organic innovation and community involvement. It donates thousands of pounds of produce to the hungry and to Burlington schools each year and works closely with incubator farms and New American farmers.
Application to the Farms Program
Interested in applying to be an incubator farmer at the Intervale?
The application process is expected to last three-six months and consists of a staff review and farmer review. We recommend applying in the spring or summer of the year before you want to begin farming. We like to notify applicants of program acceptance by December.
Farmers seeking to enroll in the program must have at least three years of farm experience and be ready to write a business plan.
What to do:
- Check out the available land for the 2017 season and see if it aligns with your farm business plan.
- Read over the application packet, which contains information about cost, land use protocols, etc.
- Fill out the Farms Program Application
- Contact Maggie Donin at email@example.com or 802-660-0440 ext. 116 to arrange a site visit.
We are also happy to share the program’s history and structure, and help you develop your own incubator program. We work with other groups and individuals from around the world who want to learn about and replicate Intervale Center programs.
Interested in any of these programs?
Contact Maggie Donin, Beginning Farmer Specialist at firstname.lastname@example.org or (802) 660-0440 ext. 116