In 2012, approximately 17.2% of family farms met the definition of a beginning farm. Beginning farms were more likely than other family farms to be small farms than established farms. Beginning farms accounted for 6.7 percent of the total production value of family farms in 2012. There are also established family farms (i.e., not considered beginning farms) that are operated jointly by more experienced operators and beginning farmers. While the majority of beginning farmers (85% in 2012) operated beginning farms, 15% of beginning farmers (making up only 3% of all farmers) jointly operated established farms with experienced farmers. Although beginning farmers are likely to be younger than established farmers, 35% of beginning farmers are over age 55 and nearly 13% are 65 or older. Beginning farmers are more likely than established farmers to have at least a 4-year college degree (34.3% compared to 23.5%, respectively).

age distribution












For more, see the Amber Waves feature, "Beginning Farmers and Ranchers and the Agricultural Act of 2014" and "Potential Challenges for Beginning Farmers and Ranchers" in Choices.