Historical Influx of Young Farmers into the Industry

Brian German General, Industry

The agriculture industry experienced an increase in young farmers under the age of 35 for only the second time in the last 100 years.  The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) latest Census of Agriculture also found that of the young farmers surveyed, 69 percent had college degrees.

Young FarmersBetween 2007 and 2012, the number of farmers between the ages of 25 and 34 increased by 2.2 percent nationwide.  Some states such as California, South Dakota and Nebraska experienced growth of 20 percent or more.  The number of beginning farmers entering the industry is a positive trend, but still not enough to replace those leaving the farming business.  Between the same time period, the USDA saw a decrease of 100,000 farmers between the ages of 45 and 54.

Another survey that was conducted by the National Young Farmers Coalition, indicated that most beginning farmers did not grow up with an agricultural background, with 75 percent being first-generation farmers.  The data was collected with the assistance of 94 partner organizations and consists of information from more than three thousand young and aspiring farmers under the age of 40.

The influx of new, young farmers is contributing to a changing agricultural landscape that promotes the local-food movement.  Newer farmers are typically working on less than 50 acres and are far more likely than the larger farming community to grow organically and be deeply involved with their local food systems.

Small and midsize farms run by beginning farmers are integral to the success of rural economies.  Those farming operations are responsible for generating jobs, along with increased spending and tax revenue.