Developing Future NC Farmers
The 2012 USDA Census Agriculture reported the average age of farmers in NC was 58.9 years. As the agricultural population ages, we must meet future challenges by bringing new people into agriculture with innovative perspectives and a will to lead. To meet this demand, we began a pilot program in 2015 with the goal of identifying, supporting, and graduating a group of new agricultural entrepreneurs. The program combined a rich university learning experience, robust mentoring from current agricultural leaders, and an experimental internship to provide on-farm training. We plan to continue this program, supporting students in the form of internship wages, scholarships, and significant training. In addition, this program will allow graduates to apply for business plan award and the opportunity to rent farmland at a reduced rate for period of 3 years, providing them an incubation opportunity to start their own agricultural operation.