Washington, DC, June 24, 2014 --New and beginning farmers and ranchers’ most universal challenge is acquiring farmland to rent or to buy, according to a report released today by the American Farmland Trust (AFT). However, while a well-developed infrastructure is in place to help beginners with production, marketing, credit, and finance, there are far too few resources to help them secure appropriate land to enter and succeed in agriculture.
“We have the worst of both worlds,” said Andrew McElwaine, President and CEO of AFT. “The number of beginning farmers and ranchers is at a 30-year low, yet people who want to start farming can’t -- because they can’t get access to the land.”
“American agriculture faces a huge transition of farmland in the next generation. Our nation’s farmers are aging – with twice as many farmers who are 75 and older as 34 and younger,” McElwaine said. “Our communities and our world depend on America’s farmers for our food and fiber. There are simply too few resources to help new farmers gain access to land. We need to take action now to ensure that farmland passes on to the next generation and remains in agriculture.”
According to study co-author Julia Freedgood, Assistant Vice President of Programs, “In researching this report, we talked to more than 100 inspired and committed beginning farmers, as well as representatives from the organizations that serve them. One thing that struck us was that beyond additional resources, there is a need to build the knowledge and skills of agricultural service providers to advise landowners on potential land transfer and leasing strategies and beginning farmers on land access opportunities.”
Cultivating the Next Generation: Resources and Policies to Help Beginning Farmers Succeed in Agriculture also found that although most beginners enter agriculture through conventional commodity systems, a surprising number of farmers get their start in retail markets like community supported agriculture programs and farmers markets, or by producing natural and grass-fed meat.
“As their operations grow, family farmers who begin in local food markets often scale up to take advantage of wholesale and larger regional and institutional markets, all the while preserving the values that first brought them to agriculture,” Freedgood said.
“With an aging farming population and the imminent transfer of millions more acres of farmland, we are committed to filling the resource gap to make sure that the next generation can gain access to high quality farmland,” said McElwaine. “This is of utmost importance to the future of agriculture.”
Resources to support beginner farmers and ranchers are available on AFT’s Farmland Information Center website: http://www.farmlandinfo.org/beginningfarmers
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The American Farmland Trust is the nation’s leading conservation organization dedicated to protecting farmland, promoting sound farming practices and keeping farmers on the land. Learn more at www.farmland.org. Like us on Facebook. Follow us on Twitter @farmland.
Our national conference, Farmland, Food and Livable Communities, will be held October 20-22 in Lexington, Kentucky. Visit www.farmland.org for more information.