The preliminary results from the 2012 Census of Agriculture are currently available and it paints an interesting picture in Nebraska.
While the preliminary results do not directly count the number of beginning farmers, the results do so indirectly by counting how many years a farmer or rancher has been operating the same farm. In Nebraska, we know that there were 9,976 beginning farmers in 2012, an increase of 891 beginning farmers since 2007.
I think this is great news! The number of beginning farmers is headed up, allowing for transition to the next generation. I think these figures also point to the diversity of operations in Nebraska — from CSA’s and smaller fruit and vegetable operations to large-scale row cropping or livestock production. In other words, there is room in the market for all types of farming and ranching.
The preliminary report also shows the number of established farmers increasing. From 2007 to 2012, the number of established farmers increased by 1,366 individuals. What does that mean? It means that more future opportunities for beginning farmers. The land will transition at some point. That means beginning farmers have an opportunity to lease, buy, or create other arrangements to obtain access to land.
The numbers provide a window into the current (well … 2012) marketplace but also what the potential future holds. When the full Census is released, I think we’ll see some even brighter spots on the horizon!