Gaining Insights, Gaining Access

An Analysis of Land Transfer and Succession Planning in New England and New York

From Maine to Connecticut and all states in between, the farming population in New England and New York is changing rapidly.

Current farmers are aging without clear plans for what we will happen to their land when they retire. At the same time, new farmers face significant challenges to beginning careers in agriculture.

To better understand the changing demographics of the farming population in New England and New York, American Farmland Trust and Land for Good completed a special tabulation of 2012 Census of Agriculture data as part of the Gaining Insights, Gaining Access project. We also held focus groups to learn more about the farms and transition goals of older farmers without successors.

State-level and regional summaries are available below and on the Gaining Insights page on American Farmland Trust's Farmland Information Center.

Our analysis found that the vast majority of retirement-age farmers New England and New York do not have a young farm operator farming alongside them.

In addition, the percentage of young farm operators in the six-state region continues to drop. Only 15% of principal farm operators were 45 years of age or younger, down from 24% only a decade ago.

In New England, more than 90% of retirement-age farmers do not have a young farm operator farming alongside them.

At the same time, over 60% of beginning farmers are over age 45. And the types of commodities produced by young and senior farmers differ significantly.

Among our focus group participants, many felt overwhelmed by succession, but all wanted to see their land remain in farming.

While specific challenges were identified by different participants, common themes emerged and numerous policy changes were identified to address these challenges.

This new research from American Farmland Trust and Land for Good highlights the need for different policy approaches that address the specific challenges faced by both older and younger beginning farmers. There is also a significant need to focus on policy solutions that benefit a variety of different types of farms.

“Protecting our land is a precursor to succession.” –Focus group participant

For more information, including recorded Webinars presenting our findings, please visit the Gaining Insights page on American Farmland Trust's Farmland Information Center Website, or click below to download the regional and state-level Gaining Insights, Gaining Access profiles.

We thank the 67 farmers who shared their stories and perspectives with us. We also thank our Advisory Team who helped shape the research and distill the findings of this project, as well as the generous support of the Claneil Foundation, the John Merck Fund and supporters of American Farmland Trust.