By New Jersey Farm Service Agency
Future farmers merged into the USDA Vineland Service Center in New Jersey last month to present their agricultural projects and discuss their experiences as Farm Service Agency youth loan recipients.
The seminar highlighted the importance that local agricultural community members may play in the future of farming in the United States. Among the attendees were members representing the Gloucester and Salem County 4-H Clubs, Cumberland County Agriculture Development Board, and area conventional agriculture lenders.
During the seminar, three current rural youth borrowers presented their agricultural projects and ongoing farm operations. They addressed the Youth Loan Program from the unique perspective of Youth Loan borrowers and discussed how FSA financing was instrumental in each of their farm operations.
The presenters included Desiree Clark, 19, who first took interest in agriculture through school. By the time she reached high school, Desiree joined the FFA where she went on to serve as Chapter President during her senior year. Over the course of her high school education, as Desiree’s involvement in the FFA increased, so too did her interest in organic livestock farming. Desiree developed her Supervised Agriculture Experience in the FFA to the extent that she eventually required financing to assist in expansion. When she learned of the FSA Youth Loan Program, she applied for operating and term money, and used it to finance her small pork and poultry operation. She remains successful and an active member of the Salem farming community while attending Cumberland County College where she is enrolled in the Agriculture Program. In the future, she seeks to grow a large-scale pork operation.
Noah Repko, 18, had his first introduction to the world of beekeeping at the age of 13 while in attendance of his friend’s birthday party. At the event, his friend’s father showed all the guests his beehives and colonies; Noah was the only one not intimidated and took a hands-on approach to learn about the bees. For his next birthday, his friend gave him a smoker, protective hood, and his first hive. Since then, he’s become increasingly more active in the Southern New Jersey Beekeepers Association and went on to join the FFA at Buena Regional High School. Additionally, he completed an apprenticeship with Tim Schuler, the New Jersey State Apiarist. Noah came to FSA to seek start-up financing to grow his colonies. Noah has slowly increased his successful business, which combines renting bees for pollination and harvesting honey and wax for sale. He has roughly 18 healthy bee colonies. In the future, Noah seeks to double his current level of colonies and remain an active participant in the New Jersey Beekeepers Association.
The third presenter was Justin Uhland, 14, who grew up in a farming family and spent many summers working under his relations’ tutelage. He is the youngest of the New Jersey Youth Borrowers and has interests in grain and fresh market produce. He sought funding through FSA in order to purchase his first tractor and attachments. He rents small parcels of land where he grows fresh market grain and fresh market produce that he sells from his road-side stand. He plans to start high school in the fall and looks forward to joining the FFA. Justin would eventually like to become an engineer specializing in agricultural machinery.
To round out the seminar and provide further details about the Youth Loan Program were Farm Loan Manager Robert Maxwell and Farm Loan Officer Matthew Pavone. Maxwell and Pavone spoke about loan eligibility criteria and FSA’s ongoing promotion of the rural youth as the next generation of American farmers and leaders.