Shoshana Inwood: Health Care and Young Farmers


One of the things we know about young farmers
is that they are very passionate about starting their new agricultural businesses and working
on their farms and creating new occupations within rural America on their farms. But one of the things that they’re really
concerned about is where they’re going to access health insurance, are they going to
access health insurance for their children and for their families? And so what they wind up doing is looking
for off-farm jobs that can provide them health insurance. And this then takes time and energy away from
their farm enterprise and oftentimes they end up having to hire additional help to supplement
their farm labor but they aren’t even able to offer those employees health insurance. We should really care about how the cost of
childcare impacts our farmers because we want young farmers who have strong backs who are
able to farm and grow their enterprises. But that also overlaps in the time when most
farmers are also interested in having children. In our research talking to farmers in Vermont,
we’re seeing that the struggle of being able to access quality, affordable childcare is
a real barrier for scaling up their farms. We’re seeing that as they try to balance both
their family needs and their farm needs, that in many cases, production goes down and quality
of life decreases as households have to negotiate who is going to be taking care of children
and when and how. And so that leads to an overall reduction
in quality of life, a lot of tension within the family and in some cases, people are leaving
agriculture and also leading to divorce. You know, so often we focus in on problems
related to access to land, credit, capital, skill development, but we don’t often focus
in on ‘what are the things that really matter to people?’ which is what’s happening in their
household. So how are families balancing and negotiating
health care issues, the cost of childcare, the ability to send their children to college
and the resulting debt that they can incur from that. And so those are the things that we are really
trying to understand.

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