Greener Pastures for New Farmers

DVRPC's Greater Philadelphia Food System Study and Eating Here: Greater Philadelphia's Food System Plan both highlighted some of the obstacles that farmers face in accessing affordable land and funding, often 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 published Greener Pastures for New Farmers.

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 and young farmers is declining. 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 existing financial and technical assistance options 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. The following case studies highlight nontraditional financing models, including state-based, nonprofit, and for-profit programs. Several of these examples are not mentioned in the report.

Air Quality Partnership
Annual Report
Connections 2050
Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA)
Economic Development District