BFRDP Projects

"Growing Our Own": A New Sonoran Desert Farmers Incubator Program" pilots a community-based collaborative approach to increasing the number and capacity of beginning farmers in Ajo, Arizona.
[Progress Report]

Award Amount: $299,237
Grant Program: 2017 Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program Awards
Project Director: Katarina Sajovec Altshul
Organization: Ajo Center for Sustainable Agriculture


  • Overview
  • Results
  • Materials
  • Delivery Area
  • Comments

Project Overview

“Growing Our Own: A New Sonoran Desert Farmers Incubator Program” is piloting a community-based multi-tiered collaborative approach to increasing the number and capacity of market growers, farmers and ranchers in a remote tri-national community of Ajo, Arizona and the surrounding region. The program will 1. Expand the capacity and skills of the existing beginning farmers through providing education, mentoring and technical support; 2. Incubate a minimum of 15 new growers through providing paid apprenticeships, and/or access to land, knowledge, materials and markets; 3. Raise a new generation of Sonoran Desert farmers and ranchers through a school campus-based “education intervention” (“Ag Club”) for high school students at the Ajo Unified School District.

After Year 1, the outputs include 90 hours (out of projected total 150 hours) of classroom style instructions for adults; 275 hours of individual mentoring and technical assistance (projected total hours for three years were 210); 13 field trips (projected total: 9); 5,440 hours of paid apprenticeship (projected total: 6,750); and 57 hours of high school level agricultural education (projected total: 60).

In Year 1, the project served unduplicated 35 local beginning farmers and ranchers (projected total: 30) and additional 85 regional beginning farmers (projected total: 70); or a total of 120 in Year 1 alone (projected total 100), out of which 95% improved their production practices and decision-making abilities, based on their surveys and reports. 15 local growers and ranchers completed a business plan in Year 1 (total projection: 15), and 30 (total project projection was 24) designed a farm (garden) operating procedures including a food safety handling plan. 20 local growers entered new markets (projected total: 10). In Year 1, no new / beginning farmers have used the services of NRCS or Farm Service Agency yet (projected total is 3), however, introductions were made and several farmers are looking into the programs, grants and loans offered. 20 new beginning farmers (projected total: 15) transitioned backyard growing into market growing or started a market growing or a farming operation over the first year, which represents a 66% increase in local number of growers (projected total number: 50%).

In Year 1, the project also installed an urban 1-acre Incubator Farm, added additional youth activities (agricultural club at the Tohono O'odham High School on the Tohono O'odham Reservation and summer ag internship), and started offering mini grants, matched savings accounts and loans to beginning farmers as a part of a community-based partnership program called Kickstart Ajo (funded by the Freeport McMoran Foundation).

Number of Participants: 250


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Delivery Area

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