Tomorrow (Feb 13) at 9:45, the Agriculture and Food Finance and Policy Division is meeting at the State Office Building (Room 200). I hope to attend and livestream, in preparation I wanted to check out the MN Department of Agriculture’s legislative report on emerging farmers.
The report defines emerging farmers and distills what they learned from a series of listening sessions with farmers across the state. They broke up the notes into 11 themes:
- Financial Barriers
- Land Availability and Prices
- Health Insurance/Rural Health Care
- Available Resources Serve Larger-Scale Agriculture
- Education/Training Resources
- Climate Change
- Market Access and Infrastructure
- Culturally Appropriate Resources
- Navigating Regulations
- And Broadband Availability
Here’s what they say about broadband…
Many participants cited online resources like videos, reports, and peer-to-peer learning platforms as primary methods for finding information about farming. Implicit in these resources is the ability to access and use the Internet. The issue of broadband availability is widely discussed in the State as a key component to rural vitality and viability. (Minnesota Office of Broadband Development). Most efforts in expanding broadband access focus on download speeds of 25 megabytes per second (Mbps), which allows enough speed for video streaming without interference. Minnesota has a plan to achieve statewide 25Mbps download and 3Mbps upload speeds by 2022. Currently, 92.7 percent of Minnesotans have access to this level of service, though that number is lower in rural areas with just 83.7 percent of households served at this speed. Further effort to expand broadband service and improve speeds is an important part of supporting emerging farmers’ access to educational resources and networking. 18
One part of the broadband effort that is often overlooked is the upload speed. Upload speeds are important for users that are creating data or content to put online, such as e-commerce sites, or using any sort of smart-farming technology (GPS, sensor-based data collection, etc.) Most broadband initiatives consider upload speeds of 3Mbps as high-speed, but users at this speed are often left with slow or non-usable connections during the upload. Some farmers report leaving their computers on overnight to upload data from their sensors, or they struggle to update social media or inventory on their e-commerce websites.
Broadband is critically important for many rural and urban development strategies, including healthcare access, commerce, teleworking, and continuing education. Both upload and download speeds should be considered in any public or private investments in broadband. Additional attention toward adoption and use, beyond just infrastructure and deployment, is also critical for any broadband initiative.
Compared to racism and climate change, broadband availability seems pretty attainable; it relies on infrastructure and not changing opinions or habits. And once won, broadband can help address other themes – such affordable access to healthcare through telehealth, online access to training resources – even culturally appropriate resources, online market access (via websites, social media and more) and access to information (in multiple languages) and people to help find out about available land or navigate regulations.