The average age of the Delaware farmer is somewhere between 55 and 57 years old, and it’s been that way for the past 30 years or so.
But part of $10 million proposal introduced today by Gov. Jack Markell and Agriculture Secretary Ed Kee could lower that age by helping a new generation of farmers get into the business. The plan calls for $3 million to be dedicated to the establishment of the Delaware Young Farmers Program.
Under the plan, announced Tuesday at Fifer Orchards in Wyoming, people up to the age of 40 can borrow money at zero or very little interest to get started in agriculture.
“It can really make a difference to help a young person get started on their own in farming,” Kee said. “I think this program is designed for a person starting from scratch or the person that’s part of the family farm that wants to branch out on their own somewhat.”
“Building capacity for our farming future helps build Delaware’s economic future,” Markell said. “Preserving agricultural land and supporting our farmers is important to our commitment to grow jobs and opportunity.” The funding comes at a time when the real estate market is slow and landowners continue to have a high interest in preservation, both of which means that the farmland preservation program can purchase easements at historically low prices. Landowner discounts have ranged to 70% below previous market value, which means that many thousand more acres can be permanently preserved.”Delaware for 15 years has done a great job of preserving farmland,” Kee said. “Twenty percent of our farmland is permanently preserved. Now we’re really looking at the human resource and getting the next generation into agriculture as best we can.”