On farms here in New York, spring is full of legs and other limbs. New lambs take their first wobbly steps. Seedlings move from greenhouse to farm field, reaching out to stretch towards the long-awaited sun. But with all this growth, it’s easy to forget the full cycle from which this new life sprang: the ewe who carried and now tends to her newborn or the fruit from which seeds were harvested to bring this season’s new roots.
The nation’s farmland follows a similar path of transition from one generation to the next. And like those lamb’s first steps or a young plant’s first days exposed to the elements, it is during this time of transition that farmland is most vulnerable. A third of farmers in New York are over the age of 65, and 92 percent do not have a young farmer working with them, suggesting an uncertain future for more than 2 million acres of farmland across the state.
These facts are as jarring as a late season frost, yet efforts underway in the Hudson Valley and—thanks to new support in the state budget—across New York, are showing signs of hope and opportunity. These innovative approaches are helping new farmers, whether members of a farm family or without farm roots, overcome the barriers they might face in accessing farmland while supporting farmland owners seeking to make land available to a new generation of farmers. Whether a beginning farmer just starting out or a senior farmer or landowner exploring farm transfer, spring offers the same chance to us all: to stretch our legs and grow.
This spring, we’ll be sharing some stories of hope for a new generation of farmers, right here in New York. Be on the lookout for those snapshots in the coming weeks.