The National Young Farmers Coalition (NYFC) released the results of its most recent survey of young farmers. It finds that young farmers are working to conserve land and develop resilience in the face of the climate crisis, but still face major challenges including land access, health care costs, and student loan debt.

Conducted every five years since 2011, NYFC’s survey helps to understand the greatest challenges and opportunities young farmers face. Of the roughly 10,000 responses NYFC received for its most recent survey, more than 4,300 came from young farmers aged 40 and under. Approximately 76 percent of these young farmers are currently farming for income, while the remainder are aspiring or past farmers.

According to respondents, the most pressing issue for young farmers is land access, with 59 percent reporting that it is very or extremely challenging to find affordable land. This is particularly true for young BIPOC farmers, who report greater issues around land access compared to young white farmers.

Top concerns also include access to capital; health care costs for themselves, their families, or business partners; production costs; housing; and student loan debt. Nearly all challenges identified in the report disproportionately affect BIPOC farmers.

Despite these barriers, respondents say they are motivated to farm so they can better steward the land and conserve and regenerate the world’s natural resources. Around 83 percent say that “one of their farmers’ primary purposes for existing is engaging in conservation or regeneration.” That number is even higher (87 percent) for BIPOC farmers. Additionally, just under one third of all respondents report that their efforts are grounded in anti-racism work and cite this as a primary motivator.

“Young farmers, and particularly BIPOC farmers, are facing significant structural barriers that stand in the way of launching and building successful careers in agriculture. This survey reveals the daunting challenges they face—land access, climate impacts, systemic racism—but also the creative and powerful solutions they are putting into place in their communities,”Vanessa Garcia Polanco, Policy Campaigns Co-Director for NYFC says in a press release.

Read the full article about young farmers by Elena Seeley at Food Tank.