Windy City Harvest Graduate Aaron Serrano shows NIFA National Program Leader Siva Sureshwaran seedlings in the Daley City College greenhouse. (Photo: Alexandra Wilson)
Aaron Serrano was 15 years-old when he was charged with a felony and sentenced as an adult to two years in a Chicago-area prison. Today, at age 18, he has a full-time job at FarmedHere, an aquaponics agricultural producer in Chicago, where his boss calls him “a treasure.”
Serrano’s transformation from a troubled teenager into a well-trained agricultural professional wouldn’t have been possible without the opportunities given to him by the Chicago Botanic Garden’s Windy City Harvest, which runs a Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program (BFRDP) project funded by the USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA). Read more »
USDA programs have targeted assistance to beginning farmers and ranchers since the 1992 Agricultural Credit Improvement Act. Farms or ranches are considered “beginning” if the operators have managed them for 10 years or less. The Economic Research Service has looked at the trend in numbers of beginning farmers and ranchers in recent decades and examined some key characteristics that distinguish them from established farms using the Census of Agriculture and the Agricultural Resource Management Survey. Taken every five years, the Census provides the only source of uniform, comprehensive and impartial agricultural data for every county in the nation.
For more than two decades, the share of farms operated by beginning farmers has been in decline. Beginning farms and ranches accounted for 22 percent of the nation’s 2 million family farms and ranches in 2011 – down from about 38 percent in 1982. Consistent with this trend, the average age of principal farm operators in the United States has risen in that period, from 50 to 58. Read more »
A wide variety of eggplant sold at the North Carolina Farmers Market. The North Carolina State Farmers Market is one of the local markets covered by USDA Market News. Photo by Justin Henry.
Urban agriculture and gardening can be an important tool in confronting several key challenges that Americans face: from supporting farm viability in and around urban areas to improving access to healthful, affordable food to realizing the potential of rural-urban linkages. Read more »
When Denise Hamilton and her husband retire from their careers as teachers at West Jessamine County High School in Nicholasville, Kentucky, they plan to move to their new farm in Garrard County and supplement their retirement income by growing pasture-raised beef and organic vegetables.
“We just want to get back to the land, because that’s just who we are,” Hamilton said. “Back to who we are and also feel good about what we’re doing.”
The Hamiltons quickly realized they faced many challenges as beginning farmers. New farmers face unique challenges, including the rising cost of farmland and a lack of knowledge about how to get farmland, implement sustainable farming practices, and access operating capital to get started. Read more »
The Farm Credit Council, the trade organization for the farmer-owned Farm Credit System, was recently awarded a grant by the Risk Management Agency to produce written and web-based material using case studies to explain how local food systems work in the real world of business and economics, called the “Field Guide to the New American Foodshed.” With this field guide, beginning farmers, ranchers and entrepreneurs will be able to identify different food system business models as they come across them, along with detailed explanations of their business structures and related resources.
Beginning farmers in Kentucky.
Most farm business advisors that are readily available are often very familiar with traditional commodity agriculture. But many beginning farmers and ranchers (BFRs) are serving markets that are often found outside of national and international commodity markets. In addition, many BFR operations are often located near metropolitan areas where there are fewer financial service providers familiar with the workings of an agricultural operation. Read more »