Survey Says More Resources Are Needed to Help a New Generation of New York Farmers

Tim Biello

In the summer of 2016, American Farmland Trust surveyed New York agricultural service providers, land trusts and other people and organizations that work around the state with farmers and farmland owners. The survey asked providers about the most pressing challenges that farmers face in accessing land or transferring land to a new generation, as well as which resources were most needed to provide a stronger support system for them. The survey also asked about the potential for developing a statewide network to coordinate and bolster the services available to New York’s farmers.  

More than 200 responses came in from Cornell Cooperative Extension offices, land trusts, local, state and federal government agencies, agricultural lenders, and more. View a full presentation on the survey results.

Keeping farmers on the land is central to AFT’s mission. With a third of all farmers in New York over age 65, it’s more important than ever to help bring a new generation of farmers onto the land. Based on the survey’s results, there is a shared recognition of the gravity and importance of this work. Ninety-five percent of the survey’s respondents feel this work is important, with nearly 60 percent ranking it ‘of high importance.’  

Three Greatest Challenges for Farmland Access and Transfer: 

Lack of Long-Term Planning for Farm Transfers
Limited Profitability of Existing Farm Businesses
Farmland Is too Expensive 

Survey respondents were also asked about the resources that could best support and enhance their work with farmers and farmland owners:

Top Five Resources Needed:

Funding for Staff to Coach and Advise Farmers
A Shared Listing of Technical Experts
Funding to Help Farmers Hire Technical Experts 
A Shared Farm Listing Service and Professional Development Trainings for Staff 
Networking Opportunities for Staff

Working Together

Transferring a farm to a new generation is often a complicated process with no one-size-fits-all solution. There is great value in having shared resources and trained professionals working together and available to work directly with farmers and landowners. AFT has seen the benefit of this model with the Hudson Valley Farmlink Network, a partnership of 15 organizations working to connect farmers with land in the Hudson Valley. Since 2014, more than 130 farmers have found land through the network.  

Could a similar network — including shared resources, increased networking and training opportunities, and dedicated funding — help New York agricultural service providers better support farmers and farmland owners? The survey says yes.