Writer’s note: As a finalist in the Wisconsin Farm Bureau Federation’s Excellence in Agriculture competition, I had the opportunity to share my background and contributions to agriculture, but also pressing issues I see impacting agriculture today. Over the next few weeks I’ll cover these issues in my blog.
While I’m getting closer to my projected size for my farm, I know it also wouldn’t be possible without programs and resources that support beginning farmers. Farming takes a lot of capitol (meaning money) and assets (meaning equipment, facilities, land and so on). It is a huge investment to get started, especially when you don’t have access to family land and/or assets. I’m not suggesting my farming friends who are farming with their families have it easy, nor am I wanting this to come across as "poor me." The reality is this is a huge hurtle for our next generation of farmers who don’t come from farming families or don’t have option of using family land/assets.
While this is my story, I know there are many others who want to get into farming that have similar stories or who are still trying to figure out how to break their way in through all the barriers. In agriculture we spend a lot of time talking about farm transition plans within families, but we also need to be thinking about how transition plans could work for those who want to retire without family and with those who want to begin farming without access to family land and assets and succeed in doing so.
This issue of accessibility to farm is a major issue for agriculture, when we start to think about the average age of today’s farmers, which is an average age of 57 and 30% are over the age of 75 (USDA). And, many of these farmers are starting or want to retire. I started to recognize this challenge when I was working for CHS and met young farmers while writing profile articles for the cooperative’s farmer magazine and working with its young farmer leadership program.
Through farm organizations, we need to be supporting and promoting programs for beginning farmers through
A few of the ways I’ve been helping raise awareness and address this issue is through sharing my voice as a beginning farmer with lawmakers and at our Farm Bureau district policy development meetings and with Congressional visits.
Additionally, while I’m by no means a seasoned farmer, I’ve been sharing my own advice with beginning farmers. This last summer I hosted a farm visit with a women’s conservation program, Wisconsin Farmers Union’s Women Caring for the Land program, and even helping share resources and facilitating networking with an informal farmer group I started and coordinate: the Wisconsin Meat Goat Producers Network because there is no formal state goat farmer organization.
Beginning Farmer Tax Credit (2017). Iowa Finance Authority. http://www.iowafinanceauthority.gov/Public/Pages/PC204LN48
Farm demographics (2015). USDA. http://www.start2farm.gov/usda/knowledge
Young farmers still concerned about adequate land. (2015). American Farm Bureau Federation. The Voice of Agriculture.
I own and manage Cylon Rolling Acres in northwestern Wisconsin. On my farm I raise Boer - Kiko meat goats on pasture.
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Cylon (pronounced Si-lon) is the name of our township in St. Croix County, Wisconsin. Sorry fans, our farm is not named after the robots of Battlestar Galactica.