When I think about new or beginning farmers, I get pretty excited. My mind is full of visions of young people flocking to farming – not in a back to the land movement that is a throwback of the hippies of 1960, but of forward thinking young people striving to improve the planet. Certainly, there are plenty of new programs training young people to farm: the agroecology program at UC Santa Cruz, the Farm School in NYC, and so on. I have been so confident of this trend that I have been speaking of a resurgence of young people choosing farming. So I was really disappointed when I looked at the census data on farmers by age; this includes part time and full time farmers. The 1992 data are from Table 49; 1997 from Table 48; 2002 from Table 60; 2007 from Table 63 (of the respective Census of Agriculture). The chart below, attached to this post, shows that the number of young farmers is declining. In fact, the number of farmers younger than 25 is such a small share of all farmers after 1992 that it doesn’t even appear on the chart. My best guess is that young farmers entered the sector after 2007, so we’ll have to wait for the results of the 2012 Census to see what is really happening.
Incidentally, I was shocked to see how many farmers are 65 years or older. Wow.