Tipper-Gurley Grow-a-Farmer Fund

Providing critical support for a profitable and sustainable farmer workforce

The Tipper-Gurley Grow-a-Farmer Fund benefits the Beginner Farmer Training Program’s (BFTP) mission: To gather and galvanize resources to achieve our vision of a new farmer workforce well trained in practices that are profitable, protect our land and water, and provide fresh, healthy food for our region’s communities.

Since the BFTP launched more than a decade ago, Future Harvest has trained more than 400 new farmers across the Chesapeake region in sustainable and regenerative practices. The BFTP provides a full year of FREE training to new farmers, ensuring that no farmer is ever turned away for lack of funds. We distribute thousands of dollars directly to limited-resource farmers each year in the form of needs-based, farm start-up mini-grants. The application process for next year’s training season is underway as we are reviewing more than 200 applications to match to the BFTP’s levels and Training Farms

The Tipper-Gurley Fund, named after the BFTP’s co-founders Cathy Tipper and Jack and Beckie Gurley (Calvert’s Gift Farm), supports our work to provide free access to critical training for our region’s future farmers.


Why make a donation?

As you can imagine, the costs of operating a free program are high. The great news is that we’ve been awarded USDA grants, but we now want to bring our mini-grant award back to $2,000 for each Level 2 Trainee. The Level 2 Trainees must complete 200 hours of hands-on farm training on individually selected trainer farms. We continue to add improvements to the BFTP each year with your support. Joanna Winkler, herself a graduate of the BFTP program, is now leading the program, and she is building a curriculum that is better than ever!

We are proud to say that the BFTP has been extremely successful at reaching and training more farmers of color and women farmers. In our 2022 class, 50% were racial minorities and 80% were women. These passionate, aspiring farmers are eager to learn sustainable ways to keep our water and air clean, soils fertile, communities healthy, farmland safe from development, and our local food system resilient. Also, each year we update our workshops with new farming techniques such as planting for carbon sequestration. You can learn more about some of our 400 BFTP graduates who have gone on to start small farm businesses here. Their profiles are truly inspiring!

Your tax-deductible donation helps to:

  • Train the next generation of Chesapeake farmers
  • Prepare new farmers for successful, climate-smart farming
  • Encourage individuals to enter farming with support and resources
  • ​Sustain a more resilient, crisis-ready local food system
  • Offer $2,000 mini-grants to qualified Level 2 Trainees

No gift is too small! The time is now! Together, we can continue our work to ensure that we have a sustainable, regional food system and a farmer workforce that is ready and able to feed our communities!

A letter from one of the BFTP founders, Cathy Tipper

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