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some young farmer commentary on the usda report

Posted: June 9 2009

you'll recall that the usda recently released a report on young ("beginning") farmers in america.  we mentioned it a couple of weeks ago here.  Greenhorn Paula Manalo of Mendocino Organics had some feedback.
I finally got around to reading this report. Along with "beginning farmer," they use a couple terms that have very specific definitions based on the information statistic wonks are looking for and for money-lending purposes. May be something to note or add to our list of terms.
img_8466"USDA considers a beginning farm as one operated by a farmer who has operated a farm or ranch for 10 years or less...Based on the USDA's designation, the 10-year requirement applied to all operators of the farm...Therefore, if any operator of a farm has more than 10 years of farming experience, the farm is not classified as a beginning farm by USDA."
"Note that new entrants defined by the linked census file differ from the USDA definition for beginning farmers. A new entrant defined by linked census data may or may not be considered a beginning farmer, and not all beginning farmers are new entrants. The Census occurs every 4-5 years, and a new entrant is one that entered between censuses. The USDA designation of a beginning farmer is one who has been farming for not more than 10 years. So, if a new entrant were also new to farming, then the entrant would be considered a beginning farmer."
While census data should be taken with a grain of salt, there were some interesting statistics, like, that beginning farmers account for 20% of the country's poultry production.
Most startling is the conclusion the authors come to: "Entry into farming, however, has not declined in recent decades." ! I think this is misleading because their definition of "farm" includes farms that didn't produce anything or that aren't pursuing commercial business. They make a point that 1/3 of beginning farmers are 55+ years old.

so much for govt. census data.

i'll be contributing to the 20% of poultry production from beginning farmers this week. broilers are going down on Friday!
🙂 paula