Farm Incubator

Headwaters Farm Incubator Program is designed to assist in the development of new farmers. The program involves leasing out sections of EMSWCD’s Headwaters Farm to motivated, experienced individuals who will use it as a launching pad for their own farming endeavors.

Why does a Soil and Water Conservation District have a farm incubator?

EMSWCD envisions a thriving and resilient farm community that contributes to the health of soil and water in our district. But starting a farm is a challenging and expensive undertaking. With Oregon’s farmers aging and considerable amounts of farmland changing hands, we seek to lower key barriers to farming to ensure an ample supply of skilled, knowledgeable, and prepared growers that will keep farmland in production and well stewarded.

What is HIP?

The Headwaters Incubator Program (HIP) is East Multnomah Soil and Water Conservation District’s primary tool for supporting the development of new farmers and farm businesses. HIP seeks to accomplish this by:

  1. Providing affordable access to farmland and farm resources, like equipment, irrigation, and infrastructure
  2. Offering farm production and business trainings, educational opportunities, and one-on-one supports
  3. Connecting program participants with a rich community of other beginning growers and farm service providers
  4. Providing vending opportunities at the Portland State University farmers market and connections to other market outlets

HIP is a five-year program with farmers growing at Headwaters Farm, EMSWCD’s 60-acre property outside of Gresham, Oregon.

Who should apply to HIP?

A Headwaters farmer wearing overalls and a beanie, with a plant propogation tray full of small plant starts in front of her on a wooden table. She turned toward the camera and smiling
EMSWCD values diversity and equity within our incubator program. We encourage applicants of diverse backgrounds and traditionally underserved communities to apply.

HIP is designed for experienced farmers who lack the financial resources needed to get a farm business off the ground. The ideal candidate comes into HIP with three or more years for farming experience with at least one of those seasons including management responsibilities (e.g. overseeing farm labor or farm systems such as irrigation, propagation or cultivation). Strong candidates will also have a desire and proven track record of successfully farming in community. We look for farmers with sound stewardship approaches and aspirations.

Any farm business that fits a five-year business model is welcome to apply. In the past we have hosted farmers producing everything from diversified mixed vegetables to medicinal and culinary herbs, as well as cut flowers, strawberries, poultry, and more. Slow-producing perennial crops and large livestock are challenging with the multi-user space and program structure, and are generally discouraged crop choices for applicants.

How does one apply to HIP?

Applications are accepted during the month of October for the upcoming growing season. To apply, see the application page. We recommend that all applicants review the most recent Headwaters Farmer’s Manual, which outlines program expectations and serves as our contract with participants.

Questions about Headwaters Farm?
Contact Rowan Steele, Headwaters Farm Program Manager, with questions or to schedule a tour: