Where Do You Start?

Teresa Olson
By Teresa Olson February 26, 2019 11:52

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Young farmers examing dirt while tractor is plowing field

 

It’s no secret that starting a farm without connections (usually a family member) is extremely difficult.  In a 2017 National Young Farmer Survey, the four biggest challenges for young U.S. farmers and ranchers were:

  1. Access to land  (This issue is the main reason farmers quite farming and why others have not yet started.)
  2. Student Loan Debt
  3. Labor
  4. Health Insurance

These young farmers were highly educated and increasingly racially diverse, and despite these challenges and a comparatively low income, the survey found that 63% felt optimistic – that they were making now or would eventually make what they needed  to meet their life goals.

The new farm bill that was passed into law last December nearly triples  funding for the only two programs specifically designed to support beginning and socially disadvantaged farmers – farmers outside the current dominant and aging demographic (the average age for farmers today is about 58 years).  The two grant programs – Socially Disadvantaged Farmers and Ranchers Program (or 2501 Program) and Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program will exist within one new enterprise called the Farmer Opportunity Training and Outreach (FOTO) Program.  The FOTO program provides another form of subsidies such as grants for programs offering outreach, training and technical assistance that support small-scale producers.  Both of the existing programs now under FOTO fund others within organizations such as nonprofits, universities, and community organizations.  Their grants help under-resourced farmers, guiding them through  the complicated arena of regulations, loans, training programs, and other assistance offered by the USDA.

On a more personal level, the National Young Farmers Coalition, or NYFC is a national advocacy network of young farmers fighting for the future of agriculture.  As their website (www.youngfarmers.org) states, they work to change policy, build networks, and provide business services to ensure all young farmers have the chance to succeed.  This 501(c)(3) organization works with local partners across the nation to offer full-day, in-depth educational guidance for farmers on the process of accessing land and partnering with a land trust, as well as various brief single-issue workshops that include lending, financial and business planning, and evaluating farmland to buy or lease.  Go to their website to find a chapter near you.

The road to farming may be an up-hill climb, but the eventual rewards may keep you from ever looking back.  One reason why people are turning to farming is to support a family and leave a meaningful legacy.  What does becoming a farmer mean for you?

-Terry Olson, Titan Outlet Store Team

Resources:

www.youngfarmers.org/resource/building-a-future-with-farmers-ii/

www.theatlantic.com/politicvs/archive/2018/12/farm-bill-programs-new-and-diverse-farmers/578260/

 www.duluthnewstribune.com/business/agriculture/4464172-its-tough-get-started-challenges-beginning-farmers

https://university.upstartfarmers.com/blog/starting-a-modern-farm

 

Teresa Olson
By Teresa Olson February 26, 2019 11:52
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