Are farmers getting too old?
We hear the statistic that farmers’ average age is around 58, cited as a bad thing. “We need young farmers,” is the implied or actual message. In an otherwise very good article on a panel talking about county economic policy in a local newspaper, we read the following comment, one heard often,
The county is home to about 2,500 small family farms, Lorton said. But he said the average age of the county’s farmers has risen over the years to 58, and he said, “That’s a problem.”
We beg to differ. The great IFO herself weighed in on this topic in the comments section of the paper that published the article. We will share it with you, our loyal readers:
Don’t worry about average age of farmers.
Remember, they are CEOs of large-cap operations responsible for expensive farm equipment, several employees, hundreds of acres, buyers of their products, vendors and suppliers. That’s a lot of responsibility.
And consider this, the median age for Standard & Poor’s 500 CEOs is 55, according to http://www.statisticbrain.com/ceo-statistics/
What IFO left out of that comment is that today’s farmers are very high tech, too. They were among the first small business people to adopt computers for bookkeeping. They went on to add high-tech monitoring of inputs (fertilizers, water for irrigation and pesticides) and production statistics.
Most younger farmers and their wives have college degrees. And don’t get us started on their equipment! Today, one man or woman can do the work that formerly required hundreds! And worst of all, from the point of view of people who look with disdain upon natural resource producers, they love their profession and admire their parents and grand-parents, who also farmed (or still farm).
Through covering agriculture for some ag-based publications and membership in a national women’s ag group, IFO has developed a personal, semi-humorous vision of what farming will look like in the future. There will be one ancient farmer at a huge control panel in his air-conditioned office running the completely automated operation of his huge multi-acre farm that covers an entire state.
What do we learn from this? It pays to respect and understand professional people at the top of their game.