The 2018 OEFFA Conference, A Taste for Change, February 15-17 in Dayton, Ohio is a great opportunity for beginning and young farmers to connect with experienced farmers, learn from farming experts and service providers, as well as network with other greenhorns. If you’re a beginner still looking for land, there are also several opportunities for you to begin your land access journey.
Educational and networking opportunities include the following:
Begin Farming Workshop Track
Helping beginning farmers start and grow their operations is the focus of a beginning farmers workshop track, featuring six 90-minute workshops.
The workshops will cover a range of topics from organic certification to farming with children:
- Your Top 10 Organic Transition Questions Answered—Julia Barton, OEFFA
- Land Access and Affordability for Beginning Farmers—Mike Durante, National Young Farmers Coalition
- In the Trenches with Farming and Government Regulations—Jacob Coleman, Sweet Grass Dairy
- Marketing for Your Farm: Sell More of Your Product—Gretel Adams, Sunny Meadows Flower Farm
- Health Insurance and Risk Management for Farmers: Tools for Navigating Health Insurance—Shoshonah Inwood, Ohio State University
- Pasture-Raised Humans: A Conversation About Raising Your Children on the Farm—Sherry Chen, Andelain Fields, Jeff Suchy, Darby Meadow Farm, Lindsey Teter, Six Buckets Farm, Rachel Tayse, Harmonious Homestead
Farmers attending a business workshop by Richard Wiswall at the 2017 OEFFA Conference
Learning and Networking to Help You Find and Fund Your Farm
The state's largest sustainable food and farm conference will also offer other opportunities geared specifically toward beginning farmers on February 15:
- A full-day Food and Farm School class, "Finding and Funding Your Farm." Led by the National Young Farmers Coalition, this full-day workshop will prepare beginning farmers to approach their land access journey with confidence. Read on for a special featured blog piece by this workshop’s facilitator, Michael Durante.
- A free, public Farm Land of Opportunity reception is designed to connect farmers looking for land with established farmers in need of employees, retiring farmers interested in a transition plan, and landowners with land to sell or lease.
Farmers visiting farmers and learning about land access in Duluth, MN
Guest Blog Feature: Michael Durante
Michael is the Land Access Program Associate at the National Young Farmers Coalition (NYFC). NYFC represents, mobilizes, and engages young farmers to ensure their success. Michael designs educational tools and programs for farmers seeking land and is a featured presenter at the 2018 OEFFA Conference.
Find and Fund Your Farm
A thin line separates opportunity from crisis in America’s agricultural economy. Farmers over the age of 65 now outnumber farmers under 35 by a margin of six to one, and U.S. farmland is overwhelmingly concentrated in the hands of older farmers. Nearly two-thirds of farmland is currently managed by someone over 55. Yet young Americans continue entering agriculture despite the odds. For only the second time in the last century, the 2012 Census of Agriculture registered an increase over the previous census in the number of farmers under 35 years old.
The demographics suggest that finding farmland should be easier now than ever, and indeed the National Agricultural Statistics Service estimates that over the next five years, nearly 100 million acres of US farmland are expected to change ownership and will need a new farmer. But beginning farmers consistently find that talent and hard work alone may not equate to farm success. The National Young Farmers Coalition’s (NYFC) 2017 National Young Farmer Survey found that 75 percent of young farmers did not grow up on a farm. First generation farmers have particular difficulty building the collateral necessary to qualify for financing while renting marginal land as farm owners, earning low pay as farmworkers, or paying back student loans.
The challenges faced by farmers are not shared equally. For farmers of color and indigenous farmers, the disappearance of family farms has not simply been economic, but systemic. These farmers have faced disproportionate rates of land loss, and the drop in numbers of their farms over the last century has been attributed to decades of discriminatory practices by the USDA, which the department itself has been forced to admit and begin to address.
NYFC’s 2017 survey found land access, overall, to be young farmers’ most significant challenge. That presents a major problem, considering secure land tenure–most often achieved by owning farmland–is a fundamental component of a viable farm business. Without building equity in land, farmers have trouble qualifying for loans, saving for retirement, or investing in long-term sustainable farming practices.
Farmers are well-known for their characteristic thrift and work ethic. Those qualities, with more awareness of the farmland financing process and a lot of business planning, will allow them to make the best of this financial challenge.
NYFC identifies several strategies for farmers seeking land access
Plan ahead. Envision your successful farm in words and numbers. By understanding your business goals and needs, you will more easily identify how people and programs can help you to achieve them. To apply for a loan, you will always need to show a business plan; even if you are running a business already, a plan will help you understand how to improve it.
Search, even before you’re looking. If you are seeking land for your business, start asking people about it. Go to your local USDA Extension office. Go to a Farm Bureau meeting. Often farmland is sold or leased without ever going on the open market; landowners need to know you’re looking. NYFC’s Land Affordability Calculator will help you understand this process and compare properties.
Visit your FSA branch. The USDA Farm Service Agency (FSA) exists to provide economic stability to American farmers and ranchers. If you cannot qualify for other credit, chances are FSA can still help you buy a farm or grow your business if you show them a solid business plan. Learn more about FSA loan programs with NYFC’s new FSA guidebook.
Work with a land trust. Land trusts are nonprofit organizations that conserve land for all variety of reasons. Increasingly, land trusts are preserving working farmland. Land trusts can help you access affordable farmland by purchasing a conservation easement to reduce the cost of a property. Read NYFC’s guide to working with land trusts for comprehensive information.
To find these resources and more visit www.youngfarmers.org.
Thinking about attending conference but not sure how? Consider applying for a scholarship!
2017 Scholarship Recipients
To help budding farmers access these educational opportunities, OEFFA is offering a limited number of full scholarships for early career farmers. The application deadline is January 10. Please direct all questions to Kelly Henderson, Begin Farming Program Coordinator, firstname.lastname@example.org.