The New, Young Face of Farming

When we think of the millennial generation and their jobs, where do we imagine them? Maybe working in a start-up company with an open workspace. Or possibly launching a business from their home.

What I’m sure very few of you imagine is a young person waking up at 5 a.m. to till fields and feed livestock. However, young farmers are a growing trend.

According to NPR, the average age of a farmer in the U.S. is 58.3, a number that has been slowly rising for over 30 years.  But, in the northeastern states of Maine, New Hampshire and Vermont that trend is reversing.

In Maine, farmers under the age of 35 have increased by 40 percent. The national average increase is only 1.5 percent. So what has caused this explosion in the northeastern U.S.?

Land is relatively cheap in the northeast and according to Deseret News National, this generation has a greater concern about environmental health and sustainability.

Photo Courtesy of NPR.
Jennifer Mitchell of NPR pointed out that this is, “…a generation that has grown up in the digital age, but embraced some very old-school things: the farmers market, craft beer, artisan cheese. The point, they say, is to find a way to live high quality, sustainable lives, and help others do the same.”

In Ohio, the same trend can be monitored just on a slightly smaller scale. In the 2007 census, farmers in the 25 to 34 age range were 2.3 percent of total farmers. However, in the 2012 census that percentage increased to 2.8 percent, which is higher than the national average.

On the heels of millennials in pursuing agriculture is Generation Z, those born in the mid-1990s. In 2014, membership in Future Farmers of America reached 610,240 and 4-H became the largest youth organization in the U.S. The influx of youth includes those from urban and non-farm backgrounds.

The Ohio Farm Bureau has an entire group dedicated to young farmers in Ohio called Young Agricultural Professionals. The group hosts various events to help young farmers and others in agriculture learn new ideas and develop their leadership skills.

This weekend, Jan. 30-31, the Ohio Farm Bureau is hosting the Young Ag Professionals 2015 Leadership Experience for young adults ages 18-35 who share a passion for farming, rural living and/or local foods.

These trends point to a bright future ahead for the agriculture industry, which is vital to Ohio as agriculture is the state’s #1 industry!

What do you think about the increase of young farmers in the U.S.? How do you think this will affect agriculture in years to come? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below.