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Beginning farmers differ demographically from established farmers

In 1982, the Census of Agriculture reported 38 percent of principal operators had operated their farm for less than 10 years, but by 2007, this number had declined to 26 percent.

In 2012, beginning farms — those headed and completely operated by farmers with 10 or fewer years of experience — made up just 17 percent of family farms.

Although beginning farmers are more likely to be younger than established farmers — 17 percent are under age 35, and their average age is 11 years younger (49 versus 60) — nearly 13 percent of beginning farmers are 65 or older.

Beginning farmers are also more likely to be female than established farmers; nearly one in five principal operators of a beginning farm is female.

Beginning farmers are also more likely than established farmers to have at least a four-year college degree.

The differing demographic profiles of beginning and established farmers may signal change for the sector as older farmers retire.

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