Young Farmers Face Four Key Challenges, Survey Says

January 15, 2018 01:12 PM

Young Farmers Face Four Key Challenges, Survey Says

Young farmers are eager for agricultural opportunities but challenged by four key factors, the greatest of which is access to land, according to the new report, “Building A Future With Farmers”. The publication summarizes findings of The National Young Farmer Survey, a project of the National Young Farmers Coalition (NYFC).

Managers Corner Land Chart

The report finds student loan debt is the No. 2 biggest challenge for farmers under 40. Limited access to skilled farm labor came in at No. 3, and lack of affordable health insurance rounded out the list at No. 4. The survey stems from a partnership between NYFC and Kathleen Merrigan, executive director of sustainability at George Washington University and a former U.S. deputy secretary of agriculture. Nearly 80% of the 3,500 respondents are actively farming, though survey results were not modeled to represent all young U.S. farmers.

“As policymakers sit down to write our next farm bill, I hope they pay attention to these survey findings. If nothing more is done to help transition young people into American agriculture, we will be importing all our food,” Merrigan says.

Yet the young farmers included in the survey are resilient, entrepreneurial and diverse. Nearly 70% of respondents have degrees beyond high school, 75% didn’t grow up on a farm and 60% are women.  –Nate Birt

A Guide To How We Are Alike And Different

It would be easy to dismiss a sociological study published in 1992 as irrelevant today. Indeed, many of the insights winnowed by the meticulous research of Sonya Salamon in “Prairie Patrimony: Family, Farming and Community in the Midwest” should be seen as foreshadowing more than headlines.

Prairie Patrimony

Still, this masterwork rivals Robert Putnam’s “Bowling Alone” as a milestone in cultural documentation. Beginning with ethnic history and cultural context, the book provides helpful understanding of the dominant moral standards and ethical framework of Midwestern farm communities. What readers might find eerie is how the unspoken but widely assumed standards of virtue for individuals and communities have remained remarkably intact over time.

At the least, any farmer who participates in a national association could find this work helpful to understand why Minnesotans aren’t like Hoosiers, and what cultural prejudgments to avoid. We are ingrained with a sense of “what’s right” that arises from our forebears’ foreign homelands and America’s settlement patterns. Salamon’s deft scholarship and storytelling gives us context to better appreciate how those biases shape our thinking. “Prairie Patrimony” remains one of the most important works I have read (and re-read).  –John Phipps

Sharpen Your Skill Set

Jan. 23, 2018: Trust In Food™ Symposium

This invitation-only event unites producers from across the U.S. with leaders from food companies, food retailers, NGOs and others to discuss restoring trust in the food system.

Jan. 23–26, 2018: Top Producer Seminar

Our seminar returns packed with expert speakers who will help power your business to the next level. This year’s keynote speaker is athlete and adventurer Chris Koch.

To register, visit

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Spell Check

Ottawa, IL
1/15/2018 04:27 PM

  I find it really difficult to believe 75% didn’t grow up on a farm, but 45% own land only!


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