The National Young Farmers Coalition (NYFC) conducted a survey named National Young Farmer Survey in 2017. They surveyed 3,517 current, former, and aspiring U.S. farmers under the age of 40. A few interesting findings from the responses were: 60% of the respondents were women, 75% of the respondents did not grow up on a farm, and 69% were highly educated, having degrees past high school. The highest percentage of respondents (30.48%) were in the Northeast part of the United States. The average age of the respondents was 29 and more than 10% of the respondents were farmers of color or indigenous farmers.
For the survey, the NYFC gathered information pertaining to the top challenges that beginning farmers face. They found that the top challenges were access to land, student loan debt, finding labor help, and health insurance. Money seems to be a big factor when it comes to young and beginning farmers. A lot do not have the current means to obtain land, whether it be because they have significant loan debt or do not have enough credit to apply or receive loans to launch their farms. Since farming can be a dangerous career, health insurance is a must. Health insurance also costs money, but respondents say the Affordable Care Act is the most helpful insurance policy for them.
The survey also discusses how lawmakers can help young farmers start their farms despite the obstacles. Lawmakers can help young farmers by addressing land access and affordability, helping them manage their student debt, increase the skilled agriculture workforce, protect affordable health care, enable farmers to invent on-farm conservation, improve finances, and address racial inequality. If lawmakers helped with the above, young and beginning farmers would not face as many challenges of beginning a farming career.
Although beginning farming comes with challenges and risks, this generation has the skills to power through the ups and downs of starting a farming business. The NYFC survey results indicate that the young farmers of this generation are more diverse than those who have been farming for several years. Young farmers now are interested in operating smaller farms, committed to sustainable farming, and are optimistic about the future. The responses surely show that there isn’t one just type of farmer and that you don’t need to have farming history or past experience to want to be in the farming business.
If you are interested in reading the entire NYFC survey report, you can view it here.