The Economic ‘Footprint’ of Young Farmers: An Agriculture Economist’s Perspective
We’ve reported on Harvest Public Media’s Changing Lands, Changing Hands documentary before. During a screening of the documentary, University of Nebraska Lincoln agricultural economist Bruce Johnson fielded questions in an online chat, some of which concerned an aging farmer population and the likely role of young and beginning farmers. See below for an excerpt from the chat.
Q: When the new Census of Agriculture comes out next year, do you think it will show more young people returning to the farm?
Good question! There well may be some uptick of younger-aged men and women starting up smaller niche farms who produce and market for local or specialized customer bases. But in the bigger scheme of U.S. production agriculture, their “economic footprint” will be relatively minor. The census really isn’t the best metric of farm numbers since in the multi-generation family farm the senior member fills out the census form with his age, but the adult children or even grandchildren don’t show up, even though they are farming the big operation.
Q: Does agriculture have an image problem to lure young people into joining the trade?
I don’t see an image problem at all. There are probably many more wannabees than opportunities to enter.
Q: Are you seeing increase or decrease in participation in youth farming programs like 4-H, FFA?
4-H and FFA programs are stronger than ever. Many young people are excited about participating–and yes many do have real interest in moving into production agriculture.
Click here to see more excerpts from the conversation with Bruce Johnson.