A few decades ago, whether because of the dominance of large-scale enterprises or general apathy, a startling trend became to develop: young people wanted out of farming.
Only five per cent of America’s farmers are between the ages of 25 and 35, according to The National Young Famers’ Coalition,. Meanwhile, farmers over the age of 65 make up 30 per cent of the farming population. The mean age of a farmer is 57.
Farming has been on the decline since the early 20th century. The U.S. went from six million farmers in 1910 to two million in 2007. This number is expected to drop considerably, as 25 per cent of the nation’s farmers will be retired by 2030.
The need for new blood in farming is surprising considering that farmers markets, organic produce and farming in general are incredibly popular, especially amongst young people. Couple that with high youth unemployment rates and we may be looking at the next big job market for young people.
There has already been signs of growing support for the farming lifestyle. Out of 1,300 aspiring and new farmers surveyed by the NYFC, 78 per cent said they were not raised on a farm.
True to form, the vast majority of the respondents farmed organically.
But despite the growing need and a burgeoning interest, young farmers face several huge obstacles, including a dire lack of capital and land to farm. Over 73 per cent of farmers said they depended on off-farm income to survive, and the price per acre of farm land doubled to $2,140 over the last 10 years.
A lack of health care also hurts prospective farmers. Farming ranks as the fourth most dangerous occupation in the country, and young farmers often must choose between health care and paying for their farm.
The NYFC suggests both government and private initiatives for helping the youth break into the industry, including improving access to capital and credit and providing support and education initiatives, such as apprenticeships and student loan forgiveness.
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