September 8, 2017

Contact: Andrew Jerome, 202-314-3106

WASHINGTON – National Farmers Union’s (NFU) Beginning Farmer Institute (BFI) convened today in Washington, D.C., for the first of three learning sessions that will take place during the next year. Twenty beginning farmers, representing demographical, geographical and production diversity in agriculture, traveled to the nation’s capital for the two-day session.

“Aging demographics in agriculture is one of our nation’s great challenges, and it underscores the importance of programs like BFI,” said NFU President Roger Johnson. “NFU’s Beginning Farmer Institute provides the next generation of family farmers and leaders in agriculture with the opportunity to learn from industry experts, leaders, policymakers, and one another. The program builds on our organization’s commitment to developing leaders in the next generation of family agriculture and celebrating the diversity in agriculture production today.”

The first session’s agenda was developed by the input of the beginning farmer and rancher participants, and it focused on advocacy, conservation, and farm credit. Participants also toured local Common Good City Farm in Washington, D.C., to learn about sustainable farming practices and business management. Several BFI members will stay in Washington for the NFU Fall Legislative Fly-In and lobby Congress on behalf of family farmers and ranchers in their communities.

NFU’s BFI program also provides beginning farmers and ranchers with hands-on technical training that emphasizes many of the challenges beginning farmers may face in their careers, enabling them to be successful in their operations and in this industry.

The beginning farmers and ranchers participating in the 2017-18 BFI 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

The BFI program is made possible through the generous support of CHS Foundation, Farm Aid, Farm Credit and Farmers Union Industries Foundation. The next program session will be held in Salinas, California, in early November 2017.


To download an audio file of Roger Johnson’s quote, visit our website at

About NFU
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.

Stay Connected
Look for us online at and on FacebookTwitter and Instagram. ​