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Young Farmer Survey Gives A Glimpse of the Next Generation

The results of a survey titled “Building a Future With Farmers II” from the National Young Farmers Coalition offers important insights to policy, education, and justice efforts needed to keep farming strong across the US. The survey, which solicited 3,517 respondents with the help of 94 partner organizations, offers a number of specific challenges young farmers face, most notably access to land and the burden of student loan debt.

The survey also highlighted the changing demographics of farmers. Young farmers (under 40 in this case) are more likely to be women (60% of respondents), NOT from farm families (75%), and highly educated with one or more degrees beyond high school (69%). The proportion of young farmers who are people of color or indigenous is also roughly double that of the 2012 USDA Census of Agriculture.

Another big finding was the overwhelming focus of young farmers on environmental stewardship, with 75% describing their practices as “sustainable,” and 63 percent describing their farming as “organic,” though only 17% are actually certified. Even this low number is great compared to the 1% of current farms in organic certification programs.

The report ends with several excellent and specific recommendations, from ways to improve land access and support housing and business training, to ways to support the vital participation of immigrant farmers and to reduce barriers to entry for those who have been historically underserved by federal programs.

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