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The Conundrum of the Aging American Farmer

The Conundrum of the Aging American Farmer
Is the average age of the U.S. Farmer really a problem?

"Old farmers never die they just go to seed," so says the old axiom.

For a month and a half I have been writing for the Indiana Prairie Farmer website and every week before I sit down to write, I first tweet, "What is going on in the world of agriculture, what should I write, any ideas?" The first response I always receive is "the average age of farmers!"

Putting it into perspective: The aging of U.S. farmers mirrors the aging of the U.S. labor force. While it concerns some, it is not likely that agriculture will have a problem replacing its aging farmer population.

Several people have written on this subject, though I haven't attempted it. I don't know what to say about it – I can spout facts, tell you it happens – but I haven't figured out what good that does. I know young farmers, those who want to be farmers, up-and-coming farmers, part-time farmers, full-time farmers, "retired" farmers, farmers that have passed on before their time. Let's just say I know lots of farmers.

According to the 2007 U.S. Census of Agriculture, U.S. farmers average 57.1 years of age.  The average age of a farmer was first reported in 1945 Census of Agriculture at 48.7 years of age.  So the average age of the U.S. farmer has increased 8.4 years over the 62-year span.

Related: How Farmers' Ages Stack Up With the U.S. Labor Force

Do I have a solution for what appears to be a problem – the possible loss of young people interested in carrying on a noble profession?  No, I don't.

But my question is more like, is there really a problem?

Think about how an average is figured. You add together the ages of the whole group then divide the total by the total number that make up the group. Basically, if you have more people over the age of 50 than you do younger than 50, your average age will obviously be higher. With land rents at all-time highs and quite honestly still on the rise, I don't foresee that farmers are becoming extinct. However, I do think there are fewer of us and farms are becoming larger.

Maybe the current majority of farmers are over the age of 50 (which I am quickly learning is not all that old!), but there are still young ones out there working hard and loving agriculture just as much.

As long as people eat, there will be a demand for agriculture and more than one person who wants to farm.

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