Exploring the Barriers to Entry to Agriculture: Challenges Facing Beginning Farmers in North Carolina
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Agriculture is inextricably linked to issues of hunger, food security, and the environment. As our global population grows, food demand grows with it. Modern food systems—which are dominated by industrial agriculture—are ill-equipped to meet global food demand. American agriculture—embedded in this larger global context—faces its own set of challenges. Our farmer population is aging and our reliance on industrial agriculture is taking a toll on farmland, soils, and natural resources. Yet, a growing local food movement offers hope for a more sustainable future and fuels the possibility of a shift away from industrial agriculture. By localizing our food systems and using agroecological principles to guide the development of sustainable farms, we can create agricultural systems that enhance food security while simultaneously building farmland resilience. To do this, we need an influx of new, conservation-minded farmers. This paper examines the barriers beginning farmers face when entering agriculture and explores the programs and resources that help them overcome these barriers. It also explores the various policies and programs that encourage and incentivize sustainable farming practices. For this study, I used interview and survey research methods to investigate the experiences of beginning farmers in North Carolina. My findings show that access to affordable land and startup capital are the two most significant barriers to entry to agriculture. However, connecting with sustainable agriculture and conservation organizations—such as land trusts—and participating in their programs can help farmers successfully transition into sustainable agriculture. Given my findings, I recommend that North Carolina land trusts consider: (1) partnering with similar-missioned organizations; (2) implementing incubator farms, farm apprenticeship programs, mentor programs, and/or farm equipment share programs; (3) outreaching to beginning farmers; (4) engaging the community around local food issues; (5) improving market access for beginning farmers; (6) providing long-term lease arrangements; and (7) working for structural change.
barriers to entry
CitationRobbins-Thompson, Kelley (2019). Exploring the Barriers to Entry to Agriculture: Challenges Facing Beginning Farmers in North Carolina. Master's project, Duke University. Retrieved from https://hdl.handle.net/10161/18311.
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This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License.
Rights for Collection: Nicholas School of the Environment