In the past few years the average age of the American farmer has been increasing, and the challenge has been how to get people that want to be involved in production agriculture into the business considering the large amount of capital it takes just to get started. One such method of helping those that want to be a farmer become one has been incubator farms. South Carolina’s first incubator farm is breaking ground today on Johns Island, near Charleston. Nikki Seibert is Director of Sustainable Agriculture with LowCountry Local First and explains the concept of an incubator farm:
“An incubator farm is very similar to a business incubation, where someone starting a new business might get a new office, a computer and some space. But instead we have a farmer and we are giving them land, a tractor and a packing shed. So it’s the same concept, of getting someone onto their feet and helping them with the high dollar infrastructure which a lot of times is crippling to new business owners. We give them opportunities to find markets and hone their skills and slowly let them go on their own as an independent farmer.”
Seibert describes the type of crops that are grown at LowCountry Local First:
“Most of them are specialty crops, diversified fruit, vegetable and herbs. We have a few doing cut flowers. But we are looking at the diversified crop as the high dollar crop.”
Each new farmer is allotted a plot on the 10-acre farm says Seibert:
“We currently have six farmers participating in the program.”
Most beginning farmers are allowed to keep their plot for up to three years. The cost to the farmers is nominal according to Seibert:
“The cost to them for a year lease is $2000. That covers our expenses on electrical, upkeep and the basic infrastructure.”
Right now, there’s room for more farmers on the plot says Seibert:
“Right now we have six and could go up to 7 or 8 depending on the size of the plot for each farmer. We have one acre designated as a teaching plot.”
And the project is brand new:
“We did a soft launch in October so we are new. We have had this as a vision in our program for several years so we have just been waiting until the community was ready for it. We are proud to be the first in the state.”
Jack and Andrea Limehouse are the landowners leasing to LowCountry Local First located on Johns Island, near Charleston, South Carolina.
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