Census shows youth trend back to farming

Author: Kristy

Some leave farm, attend college, join workforce and return to farming

There’s a real interest of people who want to go back to the farm or ranch. (

Midwest Producer | March 5, 2014


An agricultural economist at Kansas State University says it isn’t surprising that the 2012 census of agriculture preliminary data shows that Kansas’ trends in farming and ranching are similar to the national trends. Farmers are getting older, and they are becoming more efficient in meeting the agricultural production needs of a growing world population that is expected to surpass 9 billion by 2050.

“There’s a reason all of these numbers changed over time,” said Brian Briggeman, K-State associate professor of agricultural economics. “For farmers looking at retirement, they are asking themselves, ‘Where am I going to get the returns that I am getting now from agriculture?’ Furthermore, with all of the technological gains, GPS (global positioning system) and auto-steer, for example, there is less wear and tear on a farmer operator.”

Briggeman, who teaches an ag finance course, said many young people are looking forward to getting into production agriculture. He has even witnessed people who have left the farm, graduated from college, went into the workforce, and who are now either back working at the family farm or are wanting to get back.

“I graduated in 2000 from Kansas State, and that was not the sentiment in the classroom at that time,” he said. “Now, there’s a real interest of people who want to go back to the farm or ranch.”

Jason Lamprecht, Kansas’ state statistician of the Northern Plains Region for USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS), points out that 2012 was a drought year in Kansas and other states, which might have played a role in how the data turned out. The final 2012 census of agriculture report will be available in May.

“We’re very eager to get that final report out,” Lamprecht said. “You’re going to see things like a breakdown of crops by county, breakdown of livestock by county, production and value of sales.”

While the number of farms nationally decreased from the 2007 census to 2012, the number of farms in Nebraska increased. The increases are found in the small farm categories. There also was an increase from 2007 to 2012 in Nebraska in the number of young farmers and ranchers.

“These numbers reflect the optimism that has returned to Nebraska agriculture due to profitability in the sector the past five years,” said Nebraska Agriculture Director Greg Ibach. “Families are finding ways to bring their sons and daughters back to the farm or ranch.

“This could be through the addition of livestock, which allows families to add value to an existing crop base. There is a growing recognition that this type of diversification is important for the expansion of a family operation.

“Small farms also are benefitting from increased consumer demand for farm to market products. This provides a good way for young or beginning farmers to get involved in the industry.”

The U.S. census of agriculture showed that about 70 percent of the population reported being engaged in agriculture in 1840, more than 60 percent in 1900 and about 2 percent in the 2012 census, with 17 percent living in rural areas.

Current census estimates, released Feb. 20 by NASS, can be found at qlinks/extension.html.

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