[Originally published: October 17, 2017]
When I was growing up, I was told I could be anything I wanted to be. A doctor, a lawyer, a teacher, an astronaut… But only a few kids ever mentioned being a farmer.
Prior to 1990, most farmers and ranchers were under the age of 45. As the years go on, most farmer and ranchers are OVER the age of 45, with less and less new blood coming in. The problem we are facing is we have an aging farming population. If left unchecked, this could threaten our ability to produce the food we need.
So why is it that the younger generations are not wanting to come back to the farm?
- Youth want to be better educated to get good jobs.
- Farming is mentally and physically exhausting.
- Changing norms.
- “It’s too expensive and risky.”
Farming has become a very risky business. There are many costs a farmer has to pay before receiving a check. The price of land has gone up, equipment prices are always on the rise, input prices have gone up, and commodity prices have been seeing ups and downs. Not to mention there is always that chance of droughts or floods. It is hard work being a farmer.
The ups and downs of farming are nothing new. Young people just do not want to gamble all of their time and money into something that involves such great risk.
Like President John F. Kennedy once said, “The farmer is the only man in our economy who buys everything retail, sells everything wholesale, and pays freight both ways.” It was a true statement then, and it certainly is a true statement still today.
Right now we are facing a growing population around the world. The current population of 7.3 billion is expected to hit 8.5 billion by 2030 and 9.7 billion by 2050. We need more young men and women coming back to the farm more now than ever. Small farms are what grows America!
- What if a college graduate comes back to the farm, with student loans and can’t make enough money to pay them back?
- What if a young farmer loses his farm because he cannot afford to pay his bills?
- What if young people quit coming back to the farm?
- What if we don’t have enough food to feed the growing population?
Western Illinois University