Decline in family-owned farms

Local News

GASPORT, N.Y. (WIVB) — Every fall, thousands of pepole head to local farms, picking fresh produce and bringing it home. In Niagara County, where 50% of the land is used for agriculture production, the majority of the farms are family owned and operated.

That’s a lifestyle that is changing across the country where younger generations aren’t interested in taking over the family business.

“Me and my brother and sister have grown up in a culture where we aren’t afraid to work hard,” said Andres Vizcarra who is a fifth generation farmer at Becker Farms. “Just the history and everything else about it; I really didn’t have a choice! I had to jump into the family business.”

That wasn’t always the case though. In high school, Vizcarra said he wasn’t interested in keeping the tradition alive. He went to college for illustration, wanting to be an artist. When he graduated, he created a logo for the new wine line his family had just launched. From there, he said he started learning how to make wine and that’s what drew him back into the agriculture life.

“I grew up here,” said Vizcarra. “My parents were always out there working on the fields and stuff.”

According to the USDA census, other generational farmers aren’t making the choice to continue on with the family farm. The decline has been happening steadily for decades now. Since the mid-1970s, there has been a gradual decrease in the number of farm owners. In the same amount of time, the land mass each owner operates has increased.

Now, New York is offering people incentives to start farming and get on board with the ag movement. The state has a $1 million grant, giving financial support to first-time farm owners.

“So long as they [the government] keep listening to what farmers need, we’ll be doing alright.”

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