Future Harvest Blog

A letter from one of the BFTP founders, Cathy Tipper

Sep 15, 2023

Dear Friends and Family,

As we begin our application process for the 2024 BFTP (Beginner Farmer Training Program) applicants, we continue to see struggles for the new farmers. As we approach 15 years of nourishing our beginner farmers with the necessary skills to hopefully someday flourish as sustainable farmers, I see enthusiasm and hope.

I serve on the BFTP steering committee with several other more prominent farmers, and we strive to always be improving our mentoring and hands-on programing. We attend farmer gatherings, tours, make sure and “like” our BFTP farmers’ posts on social media, review our surveys carefully, and take part in the annual winter conference – this year’s theme is Nourish & Flourish: From the Ground Up.

All of these events, acts and services, along with on-line programming, are FREE to all BFTP trainees allowing them to learn farming techniques and become part of the sustainable growing community. I love catching up with farmers that went through our programs and seeing their successes. Many continue to farm, manage farms, or work in some other farm related jobs. Read about several of them below.

Recently, I’ve been trying to visit more Baltimore-area urban farms. I went to a new farm in Turner Station (East) and learned about their all-female mentoring program in which participants grow produce for their community while teaching other important life skills. The program leader plans to apply to the BFTP for 2024 training so she can get hands-on learning from a well-established mentor farmer.  Last week, I watched an MDA video featuring one of our 2018 graduates, a female veteran, who farms in the Oliver neighborhood (East side).

These urban farmers are helping with health disparities in food desserts where low nutrition diets can lead to poor health. Several urban farms, with limited space, supplement their CSAs and farm stands by buying from BFTP graduates’ rural farms.

Recently, Maryland’s Nutrient Management Requirements for our farms has been a hot topic. I’ve learned that Maryland’s incentives make the state one of the biggest users of cover crops and buffering waterways in the USA. Yay! Now, Pennsylvania is going to offer the same incentives. Finally! We have always been promoting these and other techniques to our new farmers to give our natural resources a rest and time to reset. Numerous recent tragic events are reminding us that we ALL need to act now instead of later to save our exhausted earth from the ground up. We’ve been spoiled in thinking we have plenty of natural resources but now our land and water is saturated, full to the brim, with either development or chemicals! Supporting beginning farmers and/or buying their local sustainably grown food is the best investment we can each make to help save the land and water and our own health.

Last year, at our local farmer government meeting, a prominent topic was the difficulty in finding farm managers and workers.  This is what we are trying to do with our Beginner Farmer Training Program — provide the training and support to those who want to do this work, this hard work.

Your donation will provide needs-based mini-grants to BFTP Level 2 graduates for farm start-up costs. Please make a donation to our future farmers by way of the Tipper-Gurley Grow-A-Farmer Fund. We can change our food system for a healthier community AND environment with each and every food purchase or donation that we make. I want to thank last year’s donors and, especially, those that continue to give every year!  Thank you!

With gratitude,

Cathy Tipper

Co-Founder and Past BFTP Director