Beginning Farmer & Rancher

Calling all beginning farmers and ranchers! America’s farmers and ranchers are aging, and it's prime time for a new generation. It can be hard for new farmers to get started, but there’s help. Check out our resources and land linking program for ways to take advantage of exciting new opportunities.

Background | New Farmer Finances | Land Matching Programs

Anyone with interest can become a new farmer - there is no age limit on pursuing an interest in farming or ranching. At the Center for Rural Affairs, we have resources to help new farmers become successful and profitable while they carry on the proud tradition of family farms and vibrant rural communities.

Learn more about opportunites and challenges for beginning farmers, including special programs for veterans and women getting started in farming. Keep reading below, then check out the rest of our beginning farmer pages.


America's Aging Farm Population

Right now, the American farming population is aging, and new farmers aren’t getting in:

  • Half of all current farmers likely to retire in the next decade
  • Farmers over age 55 control more than half of U.S. farmland
  • Number of entry-level farmers has fallen by 30% since 1987
  • New farmers make up only 10 percent of farmers and ranchers

What happens when these aging farmers and ranchers are no longer working the land? Their lands concentrates in bigger and bigger and bigger operations, and we lose our family farms and ranches and our rural communities.


What makes it hard for beginners? Several factors make it difficult for new farmers and ranchers to get started and become profitable:

  • Limited access to land
  • High cost of land, especially large parcels needed for conventional production systems
  • High cost of production technologies
  • Small scale of operations unsuited to conventional production systems and markets
  • Limited resources, financing opportunities, and financing eligibility
  • Increasing demand for business skills

Given these challenges, new farmers have different needs than established farmers and ranchers. Many Center for Rural Affairs programs address these unique needs. Navigate through the Beginning Farmer Resources to learn more about how our work can help you.

The Center staff has extensive experience advocating for beginning farmers with policy makers. Center for Rural Affairs Assistant Policy Program Director, Traci Bruckner has served on USDA Beginning Farmer and Rancher Advisory Committee.


Smart Financial Planning for Beginners

Before seeking outside financing, beginning farmers and ranchers need to do some basic financial and business planning. Click here to learn more.


Land Matching Programs

Farmer and rancher matching programs connect new farmers with retiring landowners. When the new and retiring generation match up, they can work out mutually beneficial arrangements to transfer ownership while maintaining a small farm’s legacy and promoting good stewardship.

To learn more about how linking programs work, how they benefit those involved, and how they help secure the future of small family farms, click here.

The Center for Rural Affairs’ was the first to match new farmers with retiring farmers and landowners. So many exist now that we retired our Land Link program in early 2015. Additional land matching programs are available throughout the country and the world.

Linking farmers and ranchers can make working arrangements and ownership transfer strategies that benefit both parties. Case studies are available.

Beginning Farmer & Rancher Notes

 

Farm Bill Priorities

Agriculture remains an important source of economic opportunity for people in rural areas.

Learn more about our farm bill priorities. We believe the farm bill can support small towns through crop insurance reform, conservation, beginning farmers, and rural development.

Pass a new farm bill before the existing one expires on Sept. 30, 2018.

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Pathways to Land Access

“Pathways to Land Access,” a report by Anna Johnson with support from Glen Ready, is a study of the Conservation Reserve Program - Transition Incentives Program (CRP-TIP), a program administered by the United States Department of Agriculture, Farm Service Agency (USDA-FSA).

In “Pathways to Land Access,” Johnson and Ready investigate implementation of CRP-TIP in Iowa, Nebraska, North Dakota and South Dakota. The program was created by the Food, Conservation and Energy Act of 2008, also known as the 2008 Farm Bill.

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Working in a farm successor as part of a retirement plan

Are you one of the many farmers without an identified farm successor? Purdue University says that's around 75 percent, and about half expect nonfamily members to take over. A gradual shift of responsibilities and ownership, plus an extended mentoring period, can help ensure the continued success of the farm business.

After checking out a candidate's experience and references, a short trial period with paid labor can be a good step. This probationary period can help both of you assess how well you work together, how your daily priorities match up, and how you deal with setbacks.

Farmers markets increase access to fresh food

There is nothing better than slicing up a ripe garden tomato fresh off the vine. However, some may not have the means to grow fresh vegetables in their backyards.

At the Center for Rural Affairs, we work with rural communities to build healthy, sustainable, local food systems. That includes supporting farmers markets.

Farmers markets expand access to fresh, healthy food in communities that need it most. They provide affordable, competitive prices for low-income families, and many accept food vouchers.

One dream: to farm in America

Daily life on a farm outside Lexington, Nebraska, is far from luxurious. However, Vicente Acevedo and Magdalena Barrios wouldn’t have it any other way.

“A typical day: I come home from work, prepare dinner, clean the house, and then I go outside to help feed the animals,” Magdalena said. “There is never a day off. I would rather be at the farm than go out to a party.”

Farming is life for this couple. Both grew up on ranches in rural Mexico — Vicente raising animals and Magdalena helping to cultivate beans and corn.