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How knowledge deficit interventions fail to resolve beginning farmer challenges

Calo, Adam
Agriculture and human values 2018 v.35 no.2 pp. 367-381
agricultural land, coasts, entrepreneurship, farm programs, funding, issues and policy, landscapes, loans, marketing, models, qualitative analysis, small farms, California
Beginning farmer initiatives like the USDA’s Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program (BFRDP), farm incubators, and small-scale marketing innovations offer new entrant farmers agricultural training, marketing and business assistance, and farmland loans. These programs align with alternative food movement goals to revitalize the anemic U.S. small farm sector and repopulate landscapes with socially and environmentally diversified farms. Yet even as these initiatives seek to support prospective farmers with tools for success through a knowledge dissemination model, they remain mostly individualistic and entrepreneurial measures that overlook structural barriers to productive and economic success within U.S. agriculture. Analysis of the BFRDP’s funding history and discourse reveals a “knowledge deficit” based program focused on the technical rather than the structural aspects of beginning farming. This is contrasted with qualitative analysis of beginning farmer experiences in California’s Central Coast region. The discrepancies between the farmer experiences and national structure of the BFRDP program ultimately reveal a policy mismatch between the needs of some beginning farmers and the programs intended to support them.