In August 2014, DVRPC completed a scan of funding programs targeted at beginning farmers and published Greener Pastures for New Farmers.
DVRPC's 2010 Greater Philadelphia Food System Study and its 2011 Eating Here: Greater Philadelphia's Food System Plan both highlighted some of the obstacles that many farmers in the region face in accessing affordable land and farming resources as a result of decades of sprawling growth and increasing development pressures. In an effort to better understand those challenges, advance several recommendations made in Eating Here, and explore more solutions, DVRPC completed this report, Greener Pastures.
DVRPC found that although our demand for food, and especially fresh, local food, has increased, there are fewer and fewer farmers in both the United States and the Greater Philadelphia region. Nationwide, the number of beginning farmers declined by 12 percent and the number of young farmers (those under 35 years old) declined by 11 percent between 1982 and 2007. Despite consumers' growing interest in supporting local farmers and sustainable producers, it remains very difficult to make a living as a full-time farmer. According to the 2012 U.S. Census of Agriculture, about 50 percent of farmers in the DVRPC region claim an off-farm job as their primary source of income. Nationwide, beginning and small farmers are significantly more likely to have earned off-farm income than established farmers.
These difficulties are compounded by the obstacles that small and beginning farmers face in accessing the land, capital, and knowledge necessary to successfully start or expand their operations. The full report summarizes some information regarding existing financial and technical assistance for small and beginning farmers, highlights a few nontraditional farm financing resources, and provides recommendations for government agencies, nonprofits, and lending institutions to improving access to land and capital for beginning farmers specifically in the Greater Philadelphia region.
Nontraditional Financing Case Studies
Of particular interest to both private and public funders are nontraditional sources of funding. DVRPC is learning of new resources all the time; these webpages catalogue recently completed case studies highlighting nontraditional financing models, including state-based, nonprofit, and for-profit programs. Several of these examples are not mentioned in the 2014 report. More examples will be added on an ad hoc basis.
The Carrot Project Revolving Loan Program [0.2 MB pdf]
Food Roots Individual Development Account [0.2 MB pdf]
Open Space Institute Lease to Own Pilot [0.1 MB pdf]
The Conservation Fund ShadeFund [0.1 MB pdf]
Northeast Organic Farming Association of Vermont Revolving Loan Fund [0.1 MB pdf]