Beginning Farmers in Illinois: Challenges and Opportunities

The Associated Press published a story about young and beginning farmers in Illinois this past week. 

The author focuses on the major barriers to getting started: land and capital.

The author also considers the broad spectrum of beginning farmers and the many different ways people get started in agriculture. The story features several beginning farmers: one who is looking to take over their family’s large operation (farm transitions), starting on a very small scale and direct marketing produce, and the non-farmer involved with agriculture is considered as well, such as people who sell inputs or are involved in agricultural marketing. Some excerpts from the story can be found below. Excerpt: Younger farmers are having difficulty breaking into agriculture, and the reasons mostly boil down to land and capital, said Terra Brockman, founder of Bloomington-based agricultural organization, The Land Connection. Farmers in their 20s and 30s looking to buy their own land and starting their own farming operation face a tough market.Even finding a relatively small plot can be hard. Dylan Cook, 26, raises organic vegetables at a small farm in rural Bloomington. He graduated from the Land Connection's Central Illinois Farm Beginnings program that helps prospective farmers put together a business plan. With savings and federal farm loans, he was able to get his start near where his own family has farmed for generations. Before he started battling the bugs and fungus that constantly threaten all crops, he faced a long hunt for the 2.5 acres he now owns and another five acres he rents. Finding work on somebody else's land also can be hard for young farmers, said Bart Bittner, 39, of Heyworth, who in 2010 returned to the family farm his father and grandfather work east of Bloomington. "One of the issues is that the operations that are out there have to have room for someone to come back," Bittner said. "There's got to be some give and take between the generations."

Young people with college degrees in agricultural topics have other options, Bittner said. "There are opportunities out of college to sell chemicals and seeds to farmers," Bittner said. "They often times will take that seed or chemical job just because of the amount of money they can make doing that." The full story can be read here.

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