Next Generation Initiative

Action AgendaRelated Publications

Next Generation: Attracting Young People to Food and Agriculture

Our Next Generation implementation partner, New Entry Sustainable Farming Project, has been awarded a USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture grant to launch a nationwide network of beginning farmer and rancher programs! This network puts the ideas developed through AGree’s deliberations into action. Read our press release here.

Background: Young people interested in pursuing farming or ranching face real hurdles, particularly if they did not grow up on a farm or ranch. They need land, access to capital and credit, as well as training and practical experience in order to be successful operators. New Americans and career changers also encounter these barriers. Fortunately, there are effective groups across the country working to train and support new farmers and ranchers. But to build the field, these groups must leverage existing resources, learn from one another, and actively collaborate.

With more American farmers reaching retirement age without a succession plan in place, we urgently need a strong pipeline to produce successful new farmers and ranchers. This need is occurring alongside growing consumer interest in where and how food is produced which is putting pressure on supply chains to meet higher social and environmental standards. We must attract individuals with a commitment to farming and ranching, and the technical and business skills necessary to establish and run profitable operations in today’s dynamic marketplace.

AGree has partnered with New Entry Sustainable Farming Project at Tuft University’s Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy to address these challenges and support organizations that are working to train and prepare new farmers and ranchers. In July 2015, we jointly convened leading groups to identify collective challenges and opportunities. The group identified a need – and decided to create a network – for learning, collaboration, and advocacy across new farmer and rancher apprentice programs.

This network, currently called New Farmers and Ranchers (NewFR), will be a nationwide program with regional resource centers that will leverage the work of leading beginning farmer and rancher training programs, establish better coordination between groups, and build their capacity to provide high quality on-farm management experience, including transition support for the next generation of farmers and ranchers. Member organizations will include diverse new and beginning farmer and rancher training and apprenticeship organizations as well as rural development organizations.

Network Overview: The network will address five major areas of work

  1. Raise the Bar – strengthen existing training programs to provide higher quality services to a larger number of farmer/rancher trainees and graduates, including certification of apprenticeship programs;
  2. Create a Strong Unified Voice – form a cohesive platform for advocacy at the state, regional, and national levels to achieve needed structural and institutional change;
  3. Promote Careers in Agriculture – develop a national communications campaign to attract prospective new farmers and ranchers to the industry;
  4. Support “Graduates” in Transition – provide support services and resources to independent operators and managers who have graduated from existing beginning farmer and rancher programs as they work to establish and scale their operations; and
  5. Connect and Engage Diverse Industry Sectors to Support New Entrants – build connections to better link graduates to food producers and companies.

More information about the network, including a list of the more than 30 current partners, can be found here. New Entry has taken the lead on this work and will manage it completely by the end of 2016.

Strategy: AGree’s Next Generation Initiative seeks to support programs training new farmers and ranchers and to ensure strong education and training opportunities to prepare the next generation of young people for careers all across the evolving food and agriculture system. AGree enlists the following strategies:

  • Support New Entry’s development of a farmer and rancher apprenticeship network that will strengthen, coordinate, and expand programs that attract new farmers and ranchers to agriculture and provide them the experience, mentoring, and resources necessary to be successful operators and managers;
  • Build common understanding of workforce challenges and opportunities in food and agriculture among stakeholders and policymakers; and
  • Foster increased collaboration among efforts to strengthen education for fields of study important for the future of our food and agriculture system.

These strategies, and the activities identified below, are informed by an analysis of the agricultural education landscape undertaken by AGree and a survey of beginning farmers and ranchers programs conducted in the spring of 2015 by AGree's partner New Entry Sustainable Farming Project at Tufts University’s Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy.

Action Agenda

Moving forward, AGree’s Next Generation Initiative will undertake the following activities:

  • Serve as a convener, idea generator, and connector with New Entry Sustainable Farming Project to launch and nurture a learning network of new farmer and rancher apprentice programs. With the launch of the network in summer 2016, AGree will support New Entry from the sidelines, providing facilitation and convening support as needed.
  • Continue to message about why the full range of relevant fields of study are important for the future of our food and agriculture system and national security; and
  • Build common ground and conditions for increased collaboration, support, and communication efforts by connecting diverse stakeholders in a high-trust environment.

Related Publications

A Call to Action for the Trump Administration | Elevate Food and Agriculture as a National Priority:

President Trump has highlighted the importance of agriculture and said he expects his nominee for Secretary of Agriculture, Governor Sonny Perdue, to "deliver big results." AGree is standing by to assist. 4 pages. February 2017.

A Call to Presidential Action | Elevating Food and Agriculture as a National Priority:

The right food and agricultural policies can improve the health of America’s families, economy, farms and the environment, as outlined in recommendations AGree is presenting to presidential candidates. AGree’s Call to Action provides core elements in a strategy for elevating food and agriculture as a national priority. 4 pages. January 2016.

Food and Agricultural Education in the United States:

This paper examines the evolution of U.S. food and ag education, its current structure, and how it must adapt to meet emerging challenges. Stephanie Mercier. 24 pages, July 2015.