CP editorial: Don’t let today’s farmers be the last of a dying breed

There is a man up at dawn checking a pregnant sow, while the rest of us lie snug in our beds gaining a few more hours of precious sleep. There is a woman that logs more hours on a tractor seat than most of us spend sitting in an office or a classroom. There is someone that sends up daily prayers for a little more rain or for just one more sunny day. These are the people who live in small towns and rural areas who make our world go round. These people are farmers, and they are going out of style.

Our current population of farmers is aging and the next generation is not showing interest in filling the void. The increasing average age of the farmer is a trend that has been continuing for the past 30 years, and according to the USDA 2012 Census of Agriculture, 61 percent of today’s farmers are 35 to 64 years and 33 percent are 65 and older. The 2012 Census also shows an almost 20 percent decrease in the number of new farmers from the 2007 Census.

According to USA Today, agriculture colleges across the nation are seeing increases in enrollment. Additionally, the USDA reports an average of 29,300 graduates expected each year from the colleges of agriculture and life sciences to join the agriculture industry. But the vast majority of those grads have no intention of returning to the farm. So how do we add appeal to farming?

We need to present a modern version of farming to the next generation, and make farming “hip” by producing positive agricultural communication campaigns. According to Pew Research Center, 86 percent of 18 to 29 year olds use a social media platform daily. So why not reach out to that population through social media? You could help give farmers a presence on the platforms the next generation uses.

Another avenue you could take to get this message out is to improve the primary and secondary agricultural curriculums by becoming an agricultural educator.

And you could work to empower those in the agriculture sector to speak out about their experiences and careers.

We need to use the platforms that this generation uses, appeal to the aspects of agriculture that they like, and build a connection between them and the agriculture industry.

I was lucky enough to grow up on my family’s farm in the small town of Moscow Mills, Missouri. I am the sixth generation of my family to work our farm, where I grew up working beside my dad and granddad. Following our family’s years of tradition, my sister and I will one day take over our farm. Taking on our farm will be a struggle and will lead to many uncertainties, but I take comfort in knowing that I will be a part of the solution to the aging farmer problem. It’s our generation’s responsibility to fill the farming void and ensure that our current farmers are not the last of a dying breed.

Olivia Hoelting

About the Author Olivia Hoelting

From a young age I can remember sitting with my dad at our family’s kitchen table looking over various agriculture magazines and newspapers. At the time, I was too young to understand most of the stories, but my dad would spend hours reading aloud to me. When I learned to read the stories myself, my dad helped me sound out some of the difficult terms myself. Little did I know, those small moments would be the first glance into my future career that I am now working towards. I am currently a junior studying science and agricultural journalism at the University of Missouri, Columbia. I have an emphasis in agricultural marketing. I am also working towards a double minor in agricultural economics and political science.