Farming Through The Generations; Is There Room For A First-Time Farmer?

An interesting post at FarmDoc at the University of Illinois posits that first generation farmers will continue to enter farming.  Data published in the article Attributes of U.S. Farms by Number of Generations the Farm has been in a Family in the Journal of the American Society of Farm Managers and Rural Appraiser (2004) indicates that the number of first-generation farmers in 2001 was 36% of all farmers across the random sample of farmers in 26 states.

The possible take-away from this data?  That while farming certainly does have aspects of generational transfer, there is evidence that first-generation farms are a significant portion of farming operations.  The article further argues that there is no evidence that this has changed in the intervening years.

If you are an aspiring farmer, the above is certainly reason to be cautiously optimistic.  If close to 40% of farmers are first-generation, it means there is room in the industry to break-in with your own operation.  It certainly isn’t easy (after all, a bit more than 60% of farmers are second-generation or more) but it is also certainly possible.

Of course, as a beginning farmer, you will still need an idea/plan of your operation; just because it is possible to begin an operation as a first generation farmer doesn’t mean it comes without careful preparation and planning.  It requires knowing not only your farming interests, but also your farming skill-set and the resources available.  Do you need to take a few classes to learn about livestock management?  Hate vegetable farming?  Currently have access to ten acres?   Knowing the answer(s) to these and many other questions are critical to starting your operation.

So, while being a first generation farmer may not have the same concerns as a second or third generation farmer, it is possible to begin your family farm legacy.  So don’t get discouraged if you are a beginning, first generation farmer; know that others beforeyou have trod the same road and succeeded!

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