Beginning Farmer & Rancher
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.
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.
Before seeking outside financing, beginning farmers and ranchers need to do some basic financial and business planning. Click here to learn more.
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’ Land Link program was the first of the now many programs that help match new farmers with retiring farmers and landowners. Additional land matching programs are available throughout the country and the world.