This post shares the views aspiring farmers have about their situation. I’m glad to report there are many of you 🙂 I surveyed aspiring farmers over a year ago. After one day on social media thirty-two people had taken the survey. That excited me! When the number reached eighty I stopped circulating it and moved on to the next thing. What I wanted to find out was if there were many out there, what they were doing pursuing their farm dream, what they perceived as barriers to entry, and if they would consider using the proposed farmer incubator model as means of getting there. Ninety percent said they would.
We have recently recorded a handful of interviews, asking similar questions to the survey. Good job on the five of you who stood in front of the camera. If you didn’t know already, this generation is about more than just shoes and video games. You are welcome to watch these folk, who are putting themselves out there. The age of those we interviewed with the camera ranges from early twenties to thirty. Also, forty five percent of the survey respondents were in the age bracket: 25-34. People who were younger and older also took it.
Farmer Incubator is about growing farmers. It aims to get new entrants into agriculture and give them the appropriate support. The survey is one means of finding out what support people think they need. Talking with people is another way. Coercing them into interviews for our blog, another.
Some seem quite close to making their farming dream a reality. With determination they should push through. Others are entertaining the idea for the moment. Many are in between, feeling their way into it as a potential transition. I sense this in both the survey and the video interviews.
I used Survey Monkey to design the survey and collect responses. The free version allows us to see summaries of each question, generating bar graphs and percentages of each answer choice, or we can look at individual responses. The paid version will allow more functions.
In the survey, the first question simply asked: Do you aspire to one day operate—perhaps own—a small farm? Those who said yes continued with the rest of the survey; and those who answered no I asked not to.
The next question asked: By what means are you working towards this goal? Respondents could select more than one answer of twenty-one provided, and they could comment in a box. I’ll share some of the results. At one end of the continuum of activities, three people aimed to start farming that year, while at the other end, fifty-three said they were farming in their backyard. One third of respondents reported being involved in a food politics group. Eight respondents were busy creating a farm business plan. Thirty-one were out there visiting farms. Eleven were gaining experience by working as a farmhand. Eight were enrolled in tertiary education (agriculture or closely related). And so on.
The next question asked: Which of the following would you describe as barriers between you and your farm? Again respondents could select more than one answer from a possible twenty-five. The two top choices were equal—I need more experience—and—I lack farming knowledge. Forty-one people selected each. Reasons such as not having enough money and a caution of entering into debt followed closely, thirty-eight and thirty-four respectively. Twenty-five selected I don’t know all the regulations as one of their barriers. Twenty-four didn’t feel confidant or ready yet. Twenty-four also reported they felt they needed another potential farmer to partner with. Twenty feared isolation in being on a farm. Down at the bottom of the list of these barriers people perceived they had only two said they weren’t ready to work hard. In the comment box a couple of people claimed their partners weren’t ready for the change of becoming a farmer.
Results from the survey, among other things, have guided our business plan. I am thinking about where potential participants are at, what their perspectives are, their expectations, and how their journey through the incubator might look. I feel in a similar place and know where some are coming from. Generally I feel this survey has illustrated there’s a demand for this type of initiative.
Our surveys are imperfect. I’ve tried to look at them for what they are. I skewed the results by being selective in the groups I chose, questions I asked and multiple-choice answers I provided. Anyway it was a start and this is the start of a process of discovery. I would like to interview more brave people and ask more questions. Contact me. I now suspect one of the significant barriers to be access to land. I will explore this further.
Following on from the aspiring farmer survey, we wrote a survey targeted at farmers and landholders. In some ways this survey mirrored the one for aspiring farmers. So far forty-five people have completed this survey. We are aiming for fifty. So if you’re an existing farmer or landholder please take it!
There is an enthusiasm for agriculture out there for sure. I want to get out and do it. Thanks to all those who took the survey and had interviews 🙂 I am sorry, Matt and Rach I could not include you this time. When I transferred your interviews to my computer your images were very pixelated. If anyone knows of a spot that might work for Dave, contact us and we’ll forward on the message: firstname.lastname@example.org
(These are my words, not the whole team’s.)