Getting Young People Back to the Farm is Critical


By Shaun Haney

With the advancing average age of the North American farmer we have a critical situation at hand.   We need to get more young people in the business of farming.   Now I am not talking about getting more young people into the ag-industry.  I am talking about getting them on the farm and not just working for Monsanto or Pioneer.

Many of us see the new young sales representative working for “company xyz” that grew up on a farm on the prairies or in the midwest.  The question is how do we get more of these people that are obviously interested in agriculture more interested in actually be involved in primary production?

For many years we have thought the reason people were not coming back to farm was because of lack of potential profitability and high opportunity costs.  I have a couple theories why more people are not coming back to the farm to try on you.

  1. Maybe people are not coming back to the farm because as an industry we are so terrible at farm succession.  Most farm in North America are family owned and with that comes succession planning. Succession planning in family business is very difficult to comes to grips with and I think it is even worse in agriculture.  Due to the fact we are not getting better at succession planning on the farm, the result is more families coming to the conclusion that a sale is better than a family that is broken.  This is resulting in less opportunities for people to come back to the farm.
  2. Due to the increasing capital requirements have we raised the barriers to entry to the point where consolidation is enabled.  This is no different than independent crop input retailers, fertilizer manufacturers and biotech providers.  If you want to farm you increasingly need to be able to acquire more debt and consequent risk.  There were a lot of farms that were transfered in the last generation that were debt free and this will not be the case with the next generation.  With a farming operation comes debt and risk.

What do you think?  Why are people not coming back to the farm?  Is it profitability concerns, farm succession, high opportunity costs, high capital requirements, etc?

I had the opportunity to talk to Rosie Templeton from Coaldale Alberta at the Tiffin Conference 2010, about what she thinks about a career in agriculture. Rosie is in high school and is a champion 4-H speaker.  Her family ranches and is very active in their community.  I asked Rosie about her perspective on a career in agriculture and what she thinks her peers are considering.

If you cannot see the below video of Rosie, Click Here

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