With this season’s severe flooding, raging wildfires, and delayed planting, many of the country’s farmers are struggling to adjust as climate change sets in. Yet young and beginning farmers face unique challenges, farmers and advocates say, with tenuous finances, relatively small operations, …
One-third of America’s 3.4 million farmers are over the age of 65, and nearly a million more of them are within a decade of that milestone, according to the 2017 Census of Agriculture, released by the USDA on Thursday. For decades, the aging U.S. farmer has been a cause for concern, expressed in this question: Who will feed America in the future? [No paywall]
Reps. Sean Maloney of New York state and Ryan Costello of Pennsylvania unveiled a U.S. House bill to help young and beginning farmers get established. The sponsors said action is needed because of the advancing average age of U.S. farmers, nearly 60 in the 2012 Ag Census.
The great majority farmers under the age of 35 hold a college degree, significantly higher than the U.S. average. It is a cohort that "is already contributing to the growth of the local-food movement and could help preserve the place of midsize farms in the rural landscape," says the Washington Post. It cites the 2012 Census of Agriculture as saying the number of farmers under the age of 35 is increasing for only the second time in a generation.
The wildfires in northern California destroyed vegetable farms in Sonoma County, "including several that were founded in the past six years by young farmers taking part in the local organic farm movement," says the San Francisco Chronicle. Growers lost homes and farm buildings and say that getting back into production will be an uphill battle.
In a case of statistical whiplash, the average age of the Canadian farmer is up at the same time the country's Census of Agriculture found a 3 percent increase in the number of farm operators under the age of 35. "This is the first time that there has been an increase in this age category since 1991," said Statistics Canada, which conducts the census every five years.
Each year, Monsanto sponsors a competition among high school students to see which class can grow the most corn on company-owned land, giving the would-be farmers a chance to call the shots and "learn firsthand about the guesswork and gambles that farmers make every year," says Harvest Public Media.
Experts say farming in Africa needs to be modernized and "transformed" to make it more appealing to young people as a way of life, Reuters reports. According to the FAO, the average age of farmers on the continent is 60, while 60-percent of the population is under 24.
A survey of over 400 young farmers and ranchers in the western United States found that finding water was even more of an issue than access to land and capital, says Civil Eats.
Students at the University of Missouri can enroll in a semester-long course titled "Returning to the Farm," which is exactly what the title says - an intensive examination whether it makes sense to go into farming, says DTN. Associate professor Kevin Moore began teaching the class following the agricultural crisis of the mid-1980s.