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 opportunities 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.

Learn about the Conservation Reserve Program - Transition Incentives Program (CRP-TIP) in our 2017 report, “Pathways to Land Access.” We examine implementation and participation in the program in Iowa, Nebraska, North Dakota, and South Dakota.


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.


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

 

Center for Rural Affairs January and February newsletter

This edition of our newsletter focuses on genuine OPPORTUNITY for all to earn a living, raise a family, and prosper in a rural place.

Brian writes about current opportunities that may be slipping away from rural citizens. As they stand at the time of print, both tax bills in Congress benefit the wealthy and large corporations, while doing little for everyday people and small town development.

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Women's Learning Circle Case Study: Crystal Powers

Crystal Powers, co-owner and co-operator of Darby Springs Farm, in Ceresco, Nebraska, participates in our Women's Learning Circles.

Darby Springs Farm motivation and practices:

  • Motivation for farming is to help people restore land through sustainable agriculture.
  • Finds ways to utilize land to her advantage, rather than changing it for more convenient use.
  • Philosophy consists of much love and attention paid to livestock.

On Women's Learning Circles:

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From a military career to sustainable agriculture: Hoops can handle it all

Veteran. Farmer. Business owner. Father.

These are just a few of the titles Brent Hoops holds. He’s also a conservationist who utilizes environmental preservation and protection practices on Good Earth Farms, his commercial soybean and corn operation, near Hastings, Nebraska.

Hoops shared his conservation experience at the Center for Rural Affairs’ Veteran Farmer Conference in March.

Senate farm bill is promising, but has concerns

The Senate Agriculture Committee has released a bipartisan bill that provides important support for farmers, ranchers, and rural communities. However, there is room for improvement.

While it would strengthen the underlying policy for conservation programs, it proposes to cut funding for working lands conservation. The bill would also offer greater permanency for many programs for beginning farmers and rural development by combining certain programs.