May 28, 2013
From Legacy Moment (05/24/2013).
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Beginning farmers under age 35 tend to operate larger farms than their older beginning farmer peers.
The average age of a beginning farm operator in the U.S. was 49 years old in 2011, according to USDA. After reading "Younger Beginning Farmers Tend to Operate Larger Farms" by Mary Ahearn in Amber Waves, a person can't help but explore a few hypotheses.
According to the article, the beginning farmer group under 35 years old appears to be less risk-averse. They gross more farm sales, earn more on-farm income, earn less off the farm, and tend to operate profitable businesses. Though the information is encouraging, one can't help but wonder what we can learn from it that may apply to other beginning farm operators. Like anything else that measures averages, there's a below and an above, both of which are striving to improve.
So, are these young beginning farmers better than their older counterparts? Do they share some agripreneurial characteristics, skills or abilities that give them a leg up? Or, do many of them simply come from larger operations that might be more conducive to larger spin-offs? The answers to each of these questions may not be readily knowable or important. The difference may point to attributes we can all learn from, such as:
1. There is a risk-reward balance in every entrepreneurial venture—the bigger the risk, the greater the potential reward.
2. Earnings are based on effort, efficiency and time. Bigger operations demand and respond to increases in all three.
3. Young people seem to have high expectations that may demand and respond to farming as a profession, rather than a lifestyle or hobby.
News & Resources for You:
Read the statistics: "Younger Beginning Farmers Tend to Operate Larger Farms" (USDA Economic Research Service).
Never be afraid to color outside the lines! Your business plan should allow you to envision and then test your theories in writing.
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Photo courtesy of USDA NRCS.