Session Topic: Farm Transition Programs/Growing Tomorrow’s Farmers

(A Central Appalachian Foodshed Conference Session Topic)

Session Hosts: Steve Muntz (Southern SAWG), Sally Canon (Bluegrass Local Food Initiatives/Community Ventures), Dave Walker (BRWIA and High Country Local.First)

Hosts oriented this session toward a discussion on land transfer and encouraging and training first generation farmers. Main points of concern included the rising age of farmers in the U.S. with fewer young people interested in taking over the family farm and the cost of farm ownership. Participants compared ‘entrepreneurial farmers’ and ‘generational farmers’ noting the distinct set of advantages and disadvantages each group faces.

Participants discussed the resources available, and the gaps in resources designed to address these issues. The group talked about the mechanics or farm transition and participants shared personal experiences with their own family’s farm transfer, or from their role in assisting with a farm transfer. Dave Walker fro Blue Ridge Women in Agriculture also shared some preliminary findings from his study on the struggles and successes of new farmers in the Blue Ridge of North Carolina.

Last, participants talked about the potential role of extension in meeting some of these needs, as well as the role of NGOs and private consultants as they may be better suited to do some of this one-on-one work with transitioning family farms and new farming families. The group also shared resources in the form of courses, databases, publications and individuals with expertise that could be useful in moving this work forward.

Key Issues/Questions:

  • Rising age of farmers with fewer new farmers interested in taking over farms, and loss of agricultural land to development as a result

  • Options for alternative ownership structures and access to support to help new farmers get started and be viable

  • Lack of easily accessible resources to answer basic technical questions and address complex overarching questions

Additional notes from the session.