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Critical Help for Young Farmers

November 9, 2010
By: Jeanne Bernick, Top Producer Editor

American agriculture is at a critical juncture. The average age of the U.S. farmer is 57 years and rising. Yet fewer and fewer young people are choosing production agriculture as a vocation.

“We had a 30% increase in farmers over the age of 75 and a 20% decrease in farmers under 25 in the last ag census,” USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack told Farm Journal. “That’s not a trendline you want to continue. We have be more aggressive about this.”

A new program called Tomorrow’s Top Producer aims to do just that by educating and developing farmers in their teens, twenties and thirties who are critical to the continued production of food, fuel and fiber.

According to U.S. census data and Farm Journal Media database research, 40% of U.S. farms are poised to transition to the next generation. But a mere 10% of farmers (209,000 farms) account for 85% of agricultural output, and fewer than 6% of those (12,000 farms) are under age 35. With so few farms operating with farmers under 35, it is critical to teach young farmers how to manage opportunity and risk.

Farm Journal’s sister publication Top Producer has created a unique conference to introduce high-end business principles to farmers age 35 and under. The one-day seminar is scheduled for Jan. 25, 2011, at the InterContinental Chicago hotel.

Topics will include Marketing 101, succession planning, farm business management, tax tactics, negotiating with suppliers, sustainable production and how to use social media. More than just lectures, the event is geared to help participants network with like-minded counterparts.

An $149 early-bird rate through Dec. 17, includes lunch and the networking reception. For a full agenda, visit

Tomorrow’s Top Producer Sustainability Award

The Jan. 25 Tomorrow’s Top Producer event will introduce a new award for young farmers who practice environmental and economic sustainability. Criteria for the award:

  • Entrepreneurship—a “new approach” to farming
  • Economics—strong, sustainable financial goals
  • Sustainability—specific efforts to ensure the operation is sustainable for the future.

Prizes include a Toughbook computer and trips to the 2011 Top Producer Seminar and Farm Journal Corn College. For more information and to download an application form, visit

The Sustainability Award is sponsored by Bayer CropScience.

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FEATURED IN: Farm Journal - Mid-November 2010
RELATED TOPICS: Tomorrow's Top Producer

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