The average age of our nation’s farmers is 58 years old, and more than a quarter are 65 or older. Many are expected to retire within the next 20 years.
The problem is that our nation’s next generation of farmers face many obstacles in starting a farming career. It’s one thing to transfer operations to a large established farmer wanting to get even bigger, and quite another to transition to new and beginning farmers with the passion and skills to farm, but few resources to start.
Major Obstacles for Beginning Farmers:
- Land: Young farmers have great difficulty finding affordable land to purchase, or helpful landowners willing to make long-term lease agreements.
- Capital: Beginning farmers need better access to capital, credit and small operating loans; these are critical for business start-up and expansion.
- Health Care: Health care is expensive for beginning farmers, but absolutely necessary given the occupational hazards of farming and safeguards for raising a family.
Along with the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition, we strongly advocate for federal programs supporting beginning farmers and ranchers.
We also support the efforts of others who provide direct service to beginning farmers, as identified here:
The National Young Farmers Coalition is working diligently to represent the interests of young farmers in the US. Their recent report makes it clear: “It is not an exaggeration to say that the success of young farmers and our nation are intertwined. Both must share the responsibility to ensure that hard working, aspiring farmers have the opportunities they need to get started and to thrive.”
The Land Stewardship Project based in Minnesota has been in the forefront of helping young and beginning farmers. Their Farm Beginnings program is nationally recognized as a model for training new farmers in sustainable production and farm management.
The Center for Rural Affairs based in Nebraska is another organization striving to develop the next generation of farmers and ranchers. Visit their Land Link program to learn more about how to match retiring farmers with beginning farmers.
The CRP Transition Incentives Program is a similar effort that helps foster the next generation of farmers and ranchers while conserving critical natural resources.