Beginning Farmer and Rancher Opportunities

Introduction | Linking | Financing | Successful Strategies

New farmers are quickly becoming a rarity, and these days, it can be hard to get started. Yet exciting opportunities exist in farming and ranching, especially for those who capture the growing consumer interest in healthy food and stewardship of our natural resources. Anyone with interest can become a new farmer - there is no age limit on pursuing an interest in farming or ranching.

The population of U.S. agriculture is poised to make a dramatic change:

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

New farmers have different needs than established farmers and ranchers. Beginning farmers often lack the capital and the scale of operation required to make profits with the high-cost technologies and production systems that are the focus of many research and education programs.

Returning veterans can be new farmers, too. Nearly half of the Iraq & Afghanistan veterans are from rural areas and many would like to start farming and ranching careers. This work can fulfill veterans' sense of service, provide a healing atmosphere to reenter civilian life, and support rural communities in need of young families and economic revitalization. Veterans receive benefits for education or for starting farms and businesses. Our Veteran Farmers Project and other information for beginners below can help answer questions for new veteran farmers.

Many Center programs address the unique needs of new farmers. Navigate through the Beginning Farmer links to learn more about how our work can help you. The Center staff has extensive experience advocating for beginning farmers with policy makers. For example, Traci Bruckner has served on the USDA Beginning Farmer and Rancher Advisory Committee.

Linking Programs and Land Link

Farmer and rancher linking programsconnect 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.

New Farmer/Rancher Benefits

  • gain access to land
  • find help with financing
  • learn from experienced landowners

Landowner Benefits

  • ensure the continuity of a farm’s operation and legacy
  • bring fresh energy and strong hands to work on the farm
  • ease transition into retirement

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.

You can view a listing of linking programs throughout the country and the world.

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, helping them to make working arrangements and ownership transfer strategies that benefit both parties. Case studies are also available.

Financing for New Farmers and Linking Landowners

Before seeking outside financing, beginning farmers and established landowners need to do some basic planning.

Financial resources and advice for new farmers:

Financial information for land linking and retiring landowners:

Other financial support for land linking:

Successful Strategies for Beginners

The Center offers strategies to help family farmers and ranchers succeed:

Contact Wyatt Fraas, or 402.254.6893 for more information.

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