Family farms are struggling with two hidden challenges

Agriculture, Family, Policies

Family farms are struggling with two hidden challenges

Kat Becker feeds hundreds of people with the vegetables she grows on her Wisconsin farm, and she wants to expand. But her ability to grow her business collides with her need for affordable health insurance and child care.

She has had to make difficult choices over the years: keep her farm income low enough so her children can qualify for the state’s public health insurance, or expand the farm and buy expensive private insurance. To look after her three young children, she could hire a cheap but inexperienced babysitter, or spend a significant share of her income on child care and have peace of mind that the kids are safe from dangers on the farm. “The stable choice for my children to have health insurance is an irrational choice for my farm business,” she said.

We’ve heard numerous stories like Kat’s in our work as social scientists supporting the next generation of farmers. Through thousands of interviews, surveys and conversations with farmers across the country, we have documented how household expenses like access to health care and child care undercut investments that could increase food production across the United States.

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