Community Farmers: The Pathways and Opportunities to Success for New, Innovative Farmers in Michigan

Project Overview

Project Type: Graduate Student
Funds awarded in 2004: $9,720.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2008
Grant Recipient: Michigan State University
Region: North Central
State: Michigan
Graduate Student:
Faculty Advisor:
Dr. Jim Bingen
Michigan State University

Annual Reports


Not commodity specific


  • Education and Training: extension, focus group, networking, workshop
  • Farm Business Management: marketing management
  • Sustainable Communities: analysis of personal/family life, local and regional food systems, public policy

    Proposal abstract:

    Our research will focus on the impetuses, mechanisms, and resources that new (first generation) farmers utilize to enter the profession of farming, and will seek to identify the most efficient ways in which to provide for, facilitate, and encourage others to follow in their path. Through the collection and analysis of geographic, economic, and sociological data, we will gain a more complete and useful understanding of the ideas, perceptions, knowledge and skills held by new growers who have, through novel and innovative as well as time tested means, become successful local, community-based farmers.

    Project objectives from proposal:

    This project seeks a clearer understanding of the ways in which new (first generation) “community-based” farmers overcome the many barriers to entry in a difficult and troubled profession. To gain this insight we will pursue three basic lines of inquiry:

    What are the basic motivations that compel new farmers to enter the profession? Through a better understanding of the personal, philosophical, religious, and ethical factors that have led new growers into a life of farming, we will gain a clearer understanding of who our new farmers are, and what they believe. By developing these profiles, we may be able to better target education, aid programs, and other resources to those with the most potential for becoming our new generation of community farmers.

    What are the specific ways in which new farmers learn their production and business strategies? Both the production and marketing of agricultural crops require a specific degree of knowledge as well as determination and intuition. Through this project we will investigate and catalogue the resources that new growers have used and the specific ways in which new farmers learn their craft. Understanding this process will help us to compile a list of resources and to provide information more efficiently effectively for potential new farmers interested in entering the profession.

    What are new, innovative, “community-based” farmers perceptions of the future of American agriculture? By understanding how our most resourceful and resilient growers view the future of their profession, we hope to better understand the ideas and practices that will guide American agriculture in the direction of success and sustainability in the future.

    This proposed research will contribute to our understanding of the ways that new (first generation) community farmers enter the profession. Through this project we will seek to learn who Michigan’s new farmers are, their motivations for becoming farmers, how they found, chose, and purchased land, how they learned the production and business practices necessary for growing food, and succeeding financially, their perceptions about the future of American agriculture, and what they see as the main challenges to maintaining food security and economically viable farms. Understanding these factors will contribute to agricultural success, sustainability and stronger local food systems.

    In addition, this research will contribute to the doctoral dissertation research that Mr. Reid is pursuing through the CARRS department at Michigan State University. We also plan to publish the results of this study as an extension bulletin to aid new farmers, and a scholarly publication in a refereed journal such as Agriculture and Human Values, or the Journal of Alternative Agriculture.

    Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture or SARE.