June 8, 2017

Contact: Andrew Jerome, 202-314-3106

WASHINGTON – National Farmers Union (NFU) has announced twenty beginning farmers and ranchers from across the United States to take part in the 2017-2018 Beginning Farmers Institute (BFI) program. The Institute empowers the success of America’s next generation of farmers by providing mentorship, technical training and leadership development to its participants.

“We are happy to welcome our largest class of participants ever for this year’s Beginning Farmers Institute program. Ensuring American agriculture lies in the hands of a well supported and equipped next generation of farmers and ranchers is a top priority for Farmers Union. NFU is proud to offer an educational program that continues to represent the geographical and production diversity in agriculture,” said NFU Senior Vice President of Public Policy and Communications Rob Larew.

Through sessions hosted in Washington, D.C., California, and Missouri, the program’s hands-on training will emphasize many of the challenges beginning farmers may face in their careers, such as business planning, access to capital, land acquisition, marketing, and more.

Agriculture diversity continues to be a focus of the BFI program. Participants in this year’s class come from a variety of operation types, from urban farms to large cattle operations. Additionally, women and veterans have been some of the most active participants in the program’s history, representing nearly 60 percent of the 73 beginning farmers who have completed the program and 13 of the 20 participants announced for this year.

The farmers selected to participate in the 2017-18 Beginning Farmers Institute program are:

  • Jess Bernstein, Wisconsin
  • Aaron Brinkman, California
  • Mary Jo Borchardt, Wisconsin
  • Serena Cochrane, Missouri
  • Randy Dugger, Indiana
  • Sherri Dugger, Indiana
  • Jacob James Marty, Wisconsin
  • Michelle McKenzie, Virginia
  • Nicholas Miller, Maryland
  • Michael Eugene Morrow, Indiana
  • Patrick O’Neill, Colorado
  • Rebecca O’Day, Hawaii
  • Alicia Razvi, Wisconsin
  • Sarah River, Wisconsin
  • John Alexander Kipp Roos, Colorado
  • Cady Schwab, New York
  • Peter Schwagerl, Minnesota
  • Martha Skelley, Colorado
  • Caitlain Thompson, Texas
  • Shannon Van Duren, Colorado

NFU Foundation has continued to grow the BFI program through the generous support of CHS Foundation, Farm Aid, Farm Credit and Farmers Union Industries Foundation. More information about BFI is available here.


To download an audio file of Rob Larew’s quote, visit our website at

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National Farmers Union has been working since 1902 to protect and enhance the economic well-being and quality of life for family farmers, ranchers and rural communities through advocating grassroots-driven policy positions adopted by its membership.

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