Young Farmers are Growing by the Numbers

The organic food industry is experiencing a surge in interest among young people. Many millennials are going into the field and becoming organic farmers. There is a youthful vigor that is growing within the agricultural industry in America. Their presence is adding new life to an ancient and important profession.

In the past, the average age of a farmer working in the United States was about 60. Today, things are changing, and younger people are embracing the food industry and agriculture in record numbers.

The Numbers

The number of farmers under the age of 35 continues to grow. The number of farmers between the ages of 25 and 34 grew 2.2% between 2007 and 2012, according to the 2014 USDA census report. These young farmers are extremely educated, ex-urban, and first- time farmers who are motivated by the growing demand for local and sustainable foods that have a great impact on the food system.

Thousands of young farmers are entering the profession with new ideas and optimism. These new ideas and perspective can open the door to new innovations in food growth and supply.

While many of them are starting out renting farms, they utilize farming practices that involve no chemical fertilizer or pesticides, promote diversification in their crops, and involve local food systems that depend on community-supported agriculture (CSA) programs and local farmers markets. Young farmers most often operate smaller farms that are usually less than 50 acres. Some young farmers are gaining experience through apprenticeships at established farms, and then branch out on their own.

Risks and Rewards of Owning a Farm

Young farmers are aware of the rewards and risks of starting a farm. Supplying and producing food for their local communities provides many rewards to young farmers. However, they must realize the risks and understand the financial aspects of owning a farm and creating a plan to obtain finances and remain operational. These are the same challenges that older farmers are facing in their operations, as well.

Help for Young Farmers in Business

The costs of farmland and farming equipment can be expensive, and many young farmers depend on government programs and other resources to help them stay afloat. The National Young Farmers Coalition  nurtures young farmers and helps them succeed in the farming industry by supporting the following principles:

  • Independent Family Farms
  • Sustainable Farming Practices
  • Affordable Land for Farmers
  • Fair Labor Practices
  • Farmer-to-Farmer Training
  • Farmers of Every Gender, Race, and Sexual Orientation

These principles and policies will ensure that young farmers from all different backgrounds have the support and resources to succeed and continue to supply our nation with quality food we all enjoy now and in the future. The new generation of farmers will continue to grow and play a significant role in expanding the local-food movement and keep midsize farms in rural America operational and useful to our food supply and production. Encouraging and promoting young people to pursue careers in farming will ensure that US families continue to have healthy foods and choices for their dinner tables.