December 2014
Farm & Field

America’s Aging Farm Population

from Alabama A&M University

Right now, the American farming population is aging, and new farmers aren’t getting in:

- Half of all current farmers and ranchers are likely to retire in the next decade;

- Farmers and ranchers over age 55 control more than half of U.S. farmland;

- Number of entry-level farmers and ranchers has fallen by 30 percent since 1987; and

- New farmers make up only 10 percent of farmers and ranchers.

What happens when these aging farmers and ranchers are no longer working the land? Their lands concentrate in bigger and bigger and bigger operations, and we lose our family farms and ranches and our rural communities.

What makes it hard for beginners? Several factors make it difficult for new farmers and ranchers to get started and become profitable:

- Limited access to land.

- High cost of land, especially large parcels needed for conventional production systems.

- High cost of production technologies.

- Small scale of operations unsuited to conventional production systems and markets.

- Limited resources, financing opportunities, and financing eligibility.

- Increasing demand for business skills.

Given these challenges, new farmers and ranchers have different needs from their established counterparts. Many programs administered by the Small Farms Research Center in the College of Agricultural, Life and Natural Sciences at Alabama A&M University address these unique needs. The Center is also particularly interested in addressing and meeting the needs of veterans in Alabama who are interested in farming or ranching. The Center and its staff have extensive experience working and assisting limited-resource and socially disadvantaged beginning farmers and ranchers in Alabama. Center Director Dr. Duncan M. Chembezi has served and continues to serve on USDA’s Beginning Farmer and Rancher Advisory Committee. Please visit and navigate through our web portal at www.aamu.edu/smallfarmscenter to learn more about our programs and services; and how our work can help you in your farming business. You may also reach us at 1-866-858-4970 – toll free.