Success in Farm Start-ups in the Northeastern United States
AbstractOn one hand, food system analysts have been concerned about many topics: the rising age of farm operators, declining farm numbers, lack of adoption of practices and systems supporting greater ecological sustainability, and interest in increased food production for local markets. On the other hand, many energetic and enthusiastic people express interest in farming and producing more community-based food. Many of these people also claim values related to sustainability. Despite prospective and new farmers’ strong interest and enthusiasm, most face numerous challenges in their start-up phase and many do not continue, even those showing considerable promise. In this paper we focus on the results from in-depth interviews with current and former start-up farmers in the Northeastern U.S. We illuminate four sets of factors related to “success” in farm start-ups: social context, personal characteristics, business characteristics, and luck. We then make three recommendations for the consideration of policy-makers, farm start-up advisors, and beginning farmers: advising and mentoring, conceiving of farms as parts of a larger food system, and focus on playing to strengths.
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