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Gaining Insights

Senior farmers video crop
“I want to leave the land in better shape than I
found it for whoever comes next,” shared a focus group participant about the future of their farm.

What will be needed to keep farmland in farming and farmers on the land as growing numbers of senior farmers begin to exit farming?

The Gaining Insights, Gaining Access project (2014-16) looks at characteristics of New England’s farm population at both ends of the spectrum—those at or beyond retirement age, and those young or new to farming. Farmers age 65 and older own or manage nearly one-third of New England’s farms, and most are farming without a young farmer alongside them. This new research from American Farmland Trust and Land For Good sheds light on what these trends mean for the future of New England agriculture.

It was a real wake-up call to see how few farmers age 65+ have a next generation working on the farm with them,” said Cris Coffin, Policy Director of Land For Good, who directed the study. “How and to whom this land and farm infrastructure transfers will have an enormous impact on the future of farming in New England.”

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Working with the Census of Agriculture data, we held focus groups across New England of older farmers with no identified successors to learn more about this large, influential farmer subset: what they’re farming and with whom; their vision of retirement; and what challenges they face for the future.

Project findings are available in these state profiles.

New Hampshire
Rhode Island
New England

We thank the 67 farmers who shared their stories and perspectives with us. We also thank our Advisory Team who helped shape the research and distill the findings of this project, and for the generous support of the Claneil Foundation, the John Merck Fund, and our supporters.