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Helping Young Ohio Farmers Sink Roots

Herb and berry farmer Rachel Tayse of Columbus says new farmers need support to build a sustainable operation. (Rachel Tayse)
Herb and berry farmer Rachel Tayse of Columbus says new farmers need support to build a sustainable operation. (Rachel Tayse)
August 29, 2017

COLUMBUS, Ohio – Over a third of all farmers are reaching retirement age, which puts the future of food in the hands of the next generation of farmers. But, creating a successful agricultural operation can be an uphill battle.

The 2014 National Young Farmers Survey found the biggest barriers young farmers face include land access challenges and a lack of capital.

As the co-owner of a certified organic urban herb and berry farm in Columbus, Rachel Tayse understands the massive expenses beginning farmers face.

"And that's everything from market set-up to the cost of cultivating and establishing new land, mechanical implements and tractors and tools and things like that - it's a lot of money - and then the actual mortgage or rent on land on top of that," she explains.

Tayse says educational programs are a key tool in helping young farmers navigate these challenges, including a new opportunity in Ohio: Heartland Farm Beginnings. Offered by the Ohio Ecological Food and Farm Association, the yearlong program offers training, mentoring and individualized learning plans to help beginning farmers create a business roadmap.

Tayse says it's incredibly important that those new to farming get the support they need to build a sustainable operation. She believes the future of our food system is at stake.

"We still all need to eat every day and we need to eat healthy, good foods which come from small vegetable and meat producers," she says. "And so we need to find ways to give those of us who want to farm the land access to that land so that the whole community can benefit from fresh foods."

While it is just being launched in Ohio, Heartland Farm Beginnings programs have seen great success in a dozen other states. Eighty percent of those who graduated from the program in 2015 are still farming today. Applications are being accepted until Sept. 15.

Mary Kuhlman, Public News Service - OH