Creating Capacity

Growing Small Farm and Ranch Businesses

Building Farmers in the West helped to build capacity and offered business development and management training to farmers and ranchers. Through a seven state collaborative effort, beginning food producers across the Western United States acquired relevant knowledge, skills and tools to help them successfully launch or grow their operations in emerging markets for specialty fresh produce and livestock products.

Program components laid out in the Local Coordinator Notebook provide a solid plan for organizations serving beginning farmers and ranchers and the opportunity to use reliable, science based methods and curriculum.

Keystone Principles

Two key elements of this program ensure a solid foundation for new farmers: first, capacity is being built using a classroom training program reinforced through interactions with University, producer peers, and community resources; and second, the program builds a strong network of producers involved in direct marketing that ultimately help to strengthen local agriculture and food systems.

Program Details

Program delivery consists of a sequence of classes where participants learn about business planning and accounting, regional direct marketing strategies, and business development resources and partners. Course “graduates” are encouraged to apply for producer mentorships or other experiential learning options to advance their business goals.


The growing demand for local, fresh foods has created new market opportunities.  These opportunities seem to be particularly rich in Western states.  N ew models of producing, marketing and managing labor intensive produce operations require training for some of the beginning farmers who are entering the industry to take advantage of new markets, but also, transitioning commercial producers who may seek to learn a different set of skills than their commodity-oriented operations required.

Program Mission

Beginning farmers who are completing this program will be able to create and maintain economically viable operations through the relevant knowledge, skills, tools, and experience this project offers.  In addition to traditional classroom education, participants grow and learn through the cooperation and education from community food organizations, successful growers, and Land Grant universities.

Being able to articulate my mission and goals has led to a more focused approach to my business, which means saving money on expenses, less waste, and striving to purchase quality stock. This means an overall improvement in the business and a happier farmer and family. Our community has become aware of us as a quality operation through our efforts and media exposure.” –-  Workshop participant testimonials [more...]









Began as a regional partnership to build community and capacity among a new generation of direct market farmers and local food systems.

For additional information, contact:

Dawn Thilmany McFadden
(970) 491-7220

Jo Ann Warner
(509) 477-2168

Western Extension Risk Management Education

Initially funded by the USDA Beginning Farmers and Ranchers Development Program (grant award number 2009-49400-05877).