CALIFORNIA FARMERS POWER THE LARGEST AGRICULTURAL ECONOMY IN THE UNITED STATES—
an extensive, complex, and diverse industry. The scale of its importance to the nation’s food system cannot be overstated: more than a third of the country’s vegetables and two-thirds of the country’s fruits and nuts are grown in California. This vast production is the harvest of over 70,000 farms worked by farmers and ranchers with varied experiences, each shaped by diverse geographies and backgrounds.
The future of agriculture in California will depend on the next generation of farmers who are already stewarding the state’s fields, ranches, and orchards. The 2017 Census of Agriculture found that 27% of current principal operators in the state of California are beginning farmers — farmers with 10 years or less experience managing their current operation. Ensuring these farmers can sustain their livelihoods is critical to the state of California. This is a key moment to understand the needs and challenges facing the next generation of farmers and ranchers who will sustain California agriculture.
This report summarizes those findings to offer a deeper understanding of the top challenges and barriers facing California’s young farmers and ranchers, particularly farmers of color. With invaluable input from these farmers, we are drawing a roadmap for legislators, technical service providers, and partner organizations to build a brighter future with farmers in California.