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 »