Farmland Access Mini Survey Results

Results and analysis from our November 2020-February 2021 land access mini survey.

The National Young Farmers Coalition conducted a short survey about land access with our network between November 2020 and February 2021. The survey was designed as a quick tool to help us put our finger on the pulse of three things:

  • the challenges farmers and aspiring farmers in our network are facing related to land;
  • what farmland justice policy goals they are most passionate about; and
  • how they want to show up to advocate for farmland justice.

To reach farmers, we advertised the survey link at our annual National Leadership Convergence, through our national chapter newsletter, by our state organizers talking to their networks, and on our social media accounts. We received 88 responses—87 from 36 states in the mainland U.S. and 1 from Puerto Rico. The results will guide our land access advocacy work, help us build our grassroots base, and inform our messaging around land issues. The following is a short summary of what we found.


The majority of respondents to our survey said they are actively farming, while the remainder told us they are aspiring farmers. One-third of respondents identified as BIPOC and just over a third identified as LGBTQIA+; two respondents were veterans. A handful of respondents identified as both BIPOC and LGBTQIA+, and one respondent identified as BIPOC, LGBTQIA+, and a veteran.

To better understand the story the data is telling us, we broke out the answers to the three questions by respondents’ current farming status; identity; as well as if they told us the challenges they are facing are “specifically rural” or “specifically urban.”

Land Access Challenges

Survey takers were asked to select all the challenges that applied to them out of a list of the following options: Can’t afford to buy or rent land; Can’t compete with non-farming buyers for land; Insecure land access; No available land that matches my needs; Discrimination; and Other.

No matter the category of respondent, the three challenges that clearly emerged as the top concerns were:

  • “Can’t afford to buy or rent land” (just over two-thirds of respondents);
  • “Can’t compete with non-farming buyers for land” (just over half of respondents); and
  • “Insecure land access” (slightly less than half).

About a quarter of respondents selected “No available land that matches my needs” and “Other.” Concerningly, 11 respondents, all of whom identified as either BIPOC or LGBTQIA+, said that “Discrimination” was a land access challenge for them.

Current Farmers

The top challenge current farmers reported was inability to compete with non-farming buyers for land. This obstacle is a growing concern as land values are rising, the climate crisis is precipitating migration to specific areas of the country, and the covid-19 pandemic has driven up interest in rural property purchases.

Aspiring Farmers and Non-Farmers

The top challenge for aspiring farmers and the one non-farmer respondent was affording land to buy or rent, with close to 80 percent of aspiring farmers selecting this challenge. In the comments, these respondents mentioned gentrification, absentee landowners, generational transition, and tax codes as contributing to this issue.

“The greatest barriers is basically greed, unfortunately.”

Aspiring farmer respondent

BIPOC, LGBTQIA+, & Veteran Respondents

Inability to afford to buy or rent land was the top challenge for both BIPOC and LGBTQIA+ respondents. Six of the 26 BIPOC respondents and five of the 28 LGBTQIA+ respondents selected discrimination as an obstacle. For the two veteran respondents, competing with non-farming buyers for land was a unanimous challenge.    

Rural vs. Urban Challenges

For respondents who selected “specifically rural” in the list of challenges, inability to compete with non-farming buyers was their top challenge, with inability to afford to buy or rent land a close second. Those who selected “specifically urban” more clearly faced inability to afford to buy or rent land as their top challenge, although competing with non-farming buyers was close behind, as was insecure land access.

Policy Goals

Survey takers were asked to select their farmland justice policy goals out of a list of the following options: Access to credit; Competition from non-farming buyers; Immigration reform; Land rematriation; Land transition; Reparations; Culturally-appropriate technical assistance; Protecting farmland; Community-led land access projects; Climate mitigation; Access to public land; Agricultural zoning & planning; and Other.

The results surprised us slightly, as we were not expecting farmland protection to emerge as such a clear frontrunner:

  • Farmland protection was selected by three-fourths of respondents and was the top policy goal across all categories of respondents other than BIPOC farmers, where it fell second behind reparations.
  • Community-led projects, reparations, ag zoning & planning, and climate mitigation all followed farmland protection in the overall results, with more than half of respondents selecting these issues as key goals.
  • Every response option (besides “other”) was chosen by more than a third of respondents, indicating a strong interest from survey takers in working on a cross section of many different issues related to land access.

Access to credit was consistently ranked low across respondent categories, which was another interesting result. This tells us that although affording land is a major issue, accessing credit to buy land is not the driving force. This distinction indicates that it is not more banks or more financing options that would enable farmers to buy or rent land, but rather the price of land itself needs to be more aligned with what farmers can save for and pay on a farming income.   

Current Farmers

Respondents who are currently farming ranked protecting farmland as a clear frontrunner, with nearly 80 percent saying that was their top goal. Community-led land access projects and addressing competition from non-farming buyers came close behind, with close to 60 percent selecting reparations. More than half noted climate mitigation and ag zoning & planning as key goals.

“My main concern is the lack of representation of the beginning farmers and the farmers who are denied a path to legal citizenship.”

Current farmer respondent

Aspiring Farmers and Non-Farmers

Farmland protection again was a clear leader, with community-led projects, reparations, and ag zoning & planning all tied close behind. A clear difference between current and aspiring farmers was that current farmers were much more concerned with addressing competition from non-farming buyers while access to public land rose higher on the list for aspiring farmers. For the one non-farming respondent, ag zoning & planning, access to credit, and culturally-appropriate technical assistance were all issues.

BIPOC, LGBTQIA+, & Veteran Respondents

Reparations was the top issue for BIPOC respondents, with nearly all 23 individuals selecting it as a policy goal. This issue was also high on the list for LGBTQIA+ respondents. Similarly to aspiring farmers, access to public land ranked higher among BIPOC and LGBTQIA+ respondents compared to the overall results, while competition from non-farming buyers dropped down the list. For the two veteran respondents, all of the priorities listed were chosen as a goal other than “other,” “community-led land access projects,” and “access to credit.”

Rural vs. Urban Challenges

Selecting for respondents who marked “specifically rural,” reparations ranked the highest as a policy priority, closely followed by community-led land access projects, protecting farmland, climate mitigation, ag zoning & planning, and competition from non-farming buyers (all tied). Land transition was much higher on the list for these respondents than for those marking “specifically urban.” For urban respondents, community-led projects rose slightly to take the top spot and access to public land was higher up the list than for rural respondents.

Showing up for Farmland Justice Advocacy

Survey takers were asked to select the ways in which they wanted to show up to advocate for farmland justice out of a list of the following options: Talk to press & be a thought leader; Talk to elected officials; Organize my community; Write, film, and podcast; and Other.

Overall, “organize my community” was the top response, with 68 percent of survey takers choosing this option. This was followed by talking to elected officials; write, film, and podcast; talk to press; and a small number selecting other.

Current Farmers

Results from these respondents match those of the overall results, which makes sense given they were the largest category of survey takers. Farmers are busy, and a few respondents commented to say they want to get involved in advocacy but are limited by time and cash flow. This, in part, is why the National Young Farmers Coalition exists! While we know advocacy takes time and effort, our staff are here to make it feel as possible and as seamless as we can.

Aspiring Farmers and Non-Farmers

Responses from aspiring farmers followed a similar ranking as the overall results, with “write, film, and podcast” rising slightly above talking to elected officials. Talking to the press was the advocacy mode of choice for the non-farming participant.

BIPOC, LGBTQIA+, & Veteran Respondents

LGBTQIA+ respondents ranked the ways they wanted to show up similarly to overall results. For BIPOC respondents, “write, film, and podcast” was the clear top choice, with 85 percent of respondents selecting it, closely followed by organizing my community. All options were selected by veteran respondents, with talking to elected officials and talking to the press selected by both. One respondent pointed out that “direct action” was missing from our list—good point, we agree! This is actually something we have been talking about exploring more in our land campaign work and not including it in the survey options was an oversight.

“I have a lot of skills I want to utilize for my community that are not always acknowledged or that I have space to leverage because of bias and racism. I want to be empowered and supported to use my skills and have access/aid to be able to execute.”

BIPOC survey respondent

Rural vs. Urban Challenges

“Organize my community” was the frontrunner for respondents who selected specifically urban as well as for those who selected specifically rural. No clear trends emerged among these responses other than write, film, and podcast falling slightly higher on the list for those who marked rural.

State-Specific Data

We did a short state-level analysis of the data, but did not have enough respondents from any particular state to report on significant trends in most cases. In New York and California, which had the most with eight respondents each, inability to afford to buy or rent land was the top challenge. This was tied with competition with non-farming buyers in California. All six of the respondents from Colorado told us they can’t afford to buy or rent land, and five of the six respondents from New Mexico are facing insecure land access.

Analysis & Follow Up

This data provides helpful insights for us into the challenges and interests of farmers in our network when it comes to land access, which is one of the five pillars of our federal policy work and has been central to our work at the Coalition for many years. We are heartened to see the interest from respondents in showing up for advocacy work across a range of issues related to land and look forward to supporting this engagement.

Hearing from survey takers about the challenges they face accessing land is disheartening, but it propels our work. We know that deep inequity exists in land ownership and that ongoing discrimination in our institutions and communities perpetuates this crisis. Through our land campaign, we are working to build a strong network of grassroots advocates, partner organizations, and supporters. Our goal is to work together to advocate for policy change that centers justice and creates a future where land is the basis of community resilience rather than a commodity to be extracted from. Whether you are a current farmer, aspiring grower, or supporter, your voice is important.

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