The Myth About Beginning Farmers

December 29, 2015 08:18 AM
The Myth About Beginning Farmers

U.S. Census data shows fewer beginning farmers are joining the agriculture industry, according to Ani Katchova, chair of Ohio State's Farm Income Enhancement Program.

"Farm transitions have been identified as one of the major upcoming structural changes in agriculture that concerns policy makers," she told attendees of the school’s kickoff to OSU’s 2015-2016 Agricultural Policy and Outlook series.

Because of that, providing support and training for beginning farmers is quickly becoming a top priority, Katchova says. The average farmer age was 57.1 years in 2007 and 58.3 in 2012. Kachova also notes just how skewed the amount of younger farmers are versus the amount of older farmers. Among U.S. farmers, 6% are 35 years or younger, and 29% are older than 65.

And to think of a “beginning farmer” as a fresh-faced, just-out-of-college twentysomething would be inaccurate, Katchova adds.

"Most people think of beginning farmers either as young or older, second-career farmers,” she says. “However, statistics show that beginning farmers can be of any age, with the highest number of beginning farmers being mid-age."

Katchova says “beginning” and “young” farmers don’t always overlap. She defines beginning farmers as anyone with less than 10 years of experience and young farmers as anyone under the age of 35. But both groups are similar in that they say they need more support, training and access to farmland. Understanding these needs is the first step to better policies and programs that target beginning farmers, she says.

The number of beginning farmers has fallen by 20% since 2007, according to U.S. Census data.

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Spell Check

Western, NE
1/5/2016 10:19 AM

  Lot of chips on the shoulders of those that started from a certain extent from scratch. I am a third generation farmer that's had help from a previous generation--and also had to retire the debt from that generation. Have had to most of my farming career work off the farm to make ends meet. And thanks to fund managers, I'll have to do that again this year. I'm a "tweener" farm. Too large to do it part time and too small not to have a supplemental income stream. I've watched second and third generation farmers go out of business because they couldn't do it by themselves. They didn't have the management acumen to survive because their fathers and mothers or uncles and aunts did it for them. I really do not like any program that favors one group of producers over another. I am not in favor of farmers farming in multiple states or counties for that matter unless they live on the borders. This current farm bill sucks as it favors certain states over others and certain commodities over others. I'm not in favor of fund managers determining the price of my production. What I'm trying to write, production ag is one of the toughest businesses you'll ever love. It's got to be in your blood. Why else would you let so many other people have a piece of your pie? Kudos to those that started from scratch--you learned how to fail and became successful from your failures! Ya gotta love it or you wouldn't do it!

John Wirtz IV
Freeland , MI
12/29/2015 06:48 PM

  There are many hurdles to over come being a beginning farmer. It doesn't matter if you're college educated, or learned from the generation before you, it is all trial and error. There is no real status quo to follow. What works for one person doesn't for their neighbor. Being able to make all the correct decisions, with out a cushion to support us after a failure is prolly the hardest thing.

pickton, TX
12/29/2015 11:01 AM

  Another problem at least in the dairy industry Is the lack of pride for a good days work from the younger generations their mind set is why should we WORK for our living when the government makes it so easy for us to get hand outs.


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