The popular nursery rhyme “Old McDonald,” is shifting from a fictional character to reality with the growing population of older farmers. It’s a fact, farmers in our country are aging, and the younger generations are not becoming as involved.
According to the most recent agricultural census, the average age of farmers in the United States is 56, with the average in the state of Alabama being 57.
Kevan Tucker, Clarke County coordinator for Alabama Extension spoke about his thoughts on the difficult climate for new farmers.
“From what I’ve experience, in today’s times it is very difficult financially for a young person to get started in farming,” Tucker said.
There are multiple economic factors that deter young people from the farming industry. Tucker noted that the availability and cost of fertile land can be an enormous burden for someone looking to start a career. Ken Kelley, Escambia County Extension coordinator explains further.
“You have to have land, and you then have to have equipment,” Kelley said. “The startup cost is tremendous.”
Because of the costs, both Kelley and Tucker said that frequently, the young people who are choosing to work in row-crop farming were raised in farming families. For these beginning farmers, the land is often owned by their families, and initial business practices have been established.
Younger populations are still choosing careers in agriculture, according to Tucker and Kelley. Both have noticed that careers in livestock and large animal veterinary medicine are popular choices for young people.
These fields tend to be more popular because of their more evident profitability. The ease and ability to make a good living is another reason that Kelley feels recent graduates may not choose row-crop farming.
“It is not an easy job,” Kelley said. “It’s hard work, and it’s long hours.”
Though the work is hard, Kelley believes that showing people that farming is profitable business venture could help solve the aging farmer population.
There are some areas that young farmers could have a more competitive advantage if they choose this field. Technological advances, according to Kelley, would serve as an advantage for young farmers over older and more established ones.
Technology in Farming“We can be more efficient,” Kelley said. “There are opportunities for young farmers to benefit with these technologies.”
The population may be aging, but both Tucker and Kelley agree that there will always be people who are passionate about providing food for their families and our country.