While I love working with data, I hate making sure I am matching “apples to apples” and not “apples to kumquats.” Another tricky aspect is making sure that I am using the best data to investigate my question. Adding to those challenges is the fact that methodology for collecting census data frequently changes, giving researchers some serious angst. So yesterday’s post caused me to think about young farmers a bit more, and I spent some more time digging through the census.
Traditionally, the census has tracked farms and not farmers. Prior to 2002, the census data collected counts of the principal operator, who is the person with day to day responsibility for managing the farm. Starting in 2002, the number of farmers was collected, and these were classified as principal, second and third operators. The table below shows the age breakdown by principal, second, and third operator; so it seems that the number of young people as a principal operator is still declining, but the number as secondary or third operators is holding up a bit better. I am very curious to see whether there was a turnaround in the number of young farmers (less than 35 years old, in my opinion) since the last census was conducted in 2007.
The numbers below are from the Census of Ag 2007, Table 49, and Census of Ag 2002, Table 7. And the table reports the number of farmers; I am still developing my table wizardry skills and couldn’t get the number of farmers line (or source) to display in a way that was pleasing to me.
I still can’t get over how many farmers are over 65 years old. And if you check the source data, which reports 75 and older, it is even more astonishing: in 2007, about 290K farmers were 75 or older. Wow.
|Operator||under 25||25-34||35-44||45-54||55-64||GT 65|