Next Generation Initiative

Next Generation: Attracting Young People to Food and Agriculture

Our Next Generation implementation partner, New Entry Sustainable Farming Project, was awarded a USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture grant to launch a nationwide network of beginning farmer and rancher programs. This network is putting some of 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, the Ag Apprenticeship Learning Network (AgALN), is “working to identify and share best practices for developing and delivering ag apprenticeship programs to train the next generation of US farmers and ranchers.” To stay informed about AgALN, subscribe to the National Ag Apprenticeship Listserv managed by New Entry. Another helpful resource is the Ag Apprenticeship Toolkit, a comprehensive guide to establishing or improving an agricultural apprenticeship. This resource includes tools, suggestions, and external links to supplementary resources.

As part of its analysis of the food and agriculture education landscape, AGree commissioned a paper in 2015 that explains the evolution of U.S. food and ag education, its current structure, and how it must adapt to meet emerging challenges.

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.

Related Publications

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.