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Why Young People Should Consider Becoming Farmers

Updated on December 15, 2016
Farmer Rachel profile image

Rachel worked as a farm manager for three years in Pennsylvania. She now owns a small farm in Minnesota.


Joined: 4 years agoFollowers: 426Articles: 32
Home raised eggs
Home raised eggs | Source

Fact:

In 2011, the average age of the American farmer was 57; in 2012, for every farmer under the age of 25 there are 5 farmers over the age of 70.

Farming is a Career

I don't think farming as a career choice gets enough attention. When I was growing up, I was told I could be anything I wanted: An astronaut, a doctor, a lawyer, or even a law-practicing doctor on the moon.

But no one ever mentioned farming.

I figured farming was for farmers and their children. Even when I was a teenager investigating colleges, I didn't even consider studying agriculture. It didn't even occur to me. And I don't think it occurred to anyone in my family, either.

But why? Why is this profession sidelined? It's a job, after all. It's a way to make a living. Anyone with an entrepreneurial spirit might be interested; anyone who loves animals might want to check out farming; anyone who loves being outside would probably want to be a farmer.

I just want to put it out there: If you want to become a farmer, you can. Don't let anyone tell you otherwise.

If you have high school or college aged children who "don't know what they want to be when they grow up," consider suggesting that they investigate becoming a farmer. It's no different than considering being a doctor, an astronaut, a banker, a teacher, a writer, a model, or a retail store manager.

If no one has suggested that you consider farming as a career, then let me be the first.

In 2011, the average age of the American farmer was 57; in 2012, for every one farmer under the age of 25, there are five farmers over the age of 70. That means that within the next 20 years, more than half of all the farmers in the United States will be too old to work, will be retired, or will be deceased.

There is one product that everyone can learn to make that will never, ever stop being needed:

Food.

Today’s teenagers, my contemporaries (the folks in their 20s), and people in their 30s and 40s should really think about it.


Resources for Getting Started

  • If you want to, check out colleges and universities that offer agricultural studies programs. A simple Google search will do the trick. A degree isn't necessary, though.
  • Look at Start2Farm.gov for information on Beginning Farmer and Rancher programs and loans.
  • Check out the USDA Farm Service Agency's website for information on loans and programs for small and beginning farmers and ranchers.
  • Visit BeginningFarmers.org - they have lots of useful information and links.
  • Locate and visit your local agricultural extension office.
  • If you have farmer relatives, talk to them.
  • Go to farmer's markets and meet some farmers.

BUT I DON'T KNOW ANYTHING ABOUT FARMING!

That’s okay! You didn’t know how to read until someone taught you, right? And you didn’t know how to drive until you learned.

I almost hate to say this, because it does sort of take some of the romanticism out of farming, but there really are no skills associated with farming that the average person can’t learn and even master.

Even if you’re not very mechanically inclined, it’s all just nuts and bolts. Even if you’ve never grown anything, it’s really just about supplying the plants with what they need to grow properly, and paying attention to them, and learning when it’s time to harvest.

Working with livestock animals is no different. What does someone who has never owned a dog do when they decide to get a dog? Research! Books! The internet! Maybe they even go take a class at their local pet store or community college about how to take care of a dog.

My suggestion to anyone interested in learning how to farm would be to try to find a small family-farm where you can volunteer, or even take an internship. Look at it like going to college.

Go to farmer’s markets and meet people who are already farming. Talk to them – they would probably love to talk to you. I literally have yet to meet anyone who operates a farm and doesn’t want to talk about it and share what they do.

Small-scale farming may be the one business where the more people there are doing it, the better off everyone in the business will be.

My point is that the information is all out there, and if you’re motivated you can get it. You do not need to be the son or daughter, or even grandchild of a farmer in order to become one yourself.


Source

BUT FARMING IS HARD WORK!

This is true. But so is sitting at a computer all day, or running after toddlers in the daycare that you manage, or being an important (but very stressed out) financial analyst for a big company.

In general, work is hard. That’s why we call it work. It doesn’t really matter what kind of work it is.

The benefits of working in farming versus working in, say, an office, are so numerous that I should probably just write another article on the topic. But to name a few, here goes:

  • Exercise! Stop paying for that gym membership and buying workout videos. As a farmer, you'll get plenty of exercise and you'll naturally get into and stay in shape.
  • Sunshine! Forget the tanning booth and get a "farmer's tan!" Okay, maybe that's not so glamorous, but being out in the sun gets you some Vitamin D, and it's good for the spirit, too.
  • Eat better! Vegetables are much more fun to eat when you've grown them yourself. Raise your own beef, pork, chicken, lamb or some other kind of meat, and you will get to decide what the animal will eat and what kind of life it will have before it goes to the butcher. It's trite, but it's true: You are what you eat.
  • Live in the seasons! You should get to experience more than one season through the year, and if you work in a "climate controlled" environment I think you'll appreciate what I'm saying. Life is fuller when you get to be too hot and sweaty, when you get to be cold, when you get to watch the subtle change in green from summer to autumn, when you become aware of the approaching spring because the air quality changes, when you can "smell" winter coming. The natural world is so much more complex than I think we will ever understand, much less appreciate.

BUT SUCCESS ISN'T GUARANTEED IN FARMING!

1\No, nothing is certain. And bad things can happen to any business; small farms are certainly not excluded from this rule.

If the uncertainty of success in a small farming business venture is what really turns you off, then I would encourage you to consider some other profession.

Let’s take banking, for instance. You might get a job with a well-known, successful bank. You might move up the ranks and end up with a job making $170,000 per year. You might work for this bank until you’re 40 or 50.

And this bank might fail. It might merge with another bank and lay you off. The Powers That Be might decide that your position is no longer essential to business functions.

There is no guarantee of success in any career. At least if you’re a farmer, you will have a more direct effect on the chances for success. And if something goes horribly wrong, you will be the one to decide how to react to it.

If the storm comes and you can weather it, you can succeed. There’s no gain without risk, no winning without trying, and no success without some failure intermixed.


Source

You Will Not Get Rich Farming

In general, this is probably true.

But who cares? And what’s “rich,” anyway?

If you’re concerned that you will not be able to always afford to best and newest this-thing or that-thing, then maybe farming really isn’t for you. But if you have even the smallest belief, even the tiniest little doubt that maybe all of that “stuff” that money can buy isn’t really what’s important in life, then I would encourage you to consider becoming a farmer.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Outlook Handbook, in 2010 the average annual salary for a farmer was $60,750. I say, Not bad - especially when you consider that most families have two adults in the workforce.


MYTH: You should be related to a farmer if you're going to become a farmer

That's absolutely false. While there are some serious benefits to having family members already farming (you might have a mentor, or have access to land without having to make a big purchase), it's not necessary.

Being the first person in your immediate family to decide to become a farmer shouldn't discourage you anymore than being the first person in your immediate family to attend college.

Anyone can become a farmer. In fact, you can decide right now that you want to farm, even if you don’t own land.

Are you planning to own a home someday? For most people, the answer is probably yes. Okay then, so you were already planning to purchase some property. Why not purchase a house that you can live in, on a piece of land that you can earn money with?

Mortgage rates are between 3% and 5% right now - as low as they've been in decades and decades. This may be a bad time to have to look for a job, buy a car, or get a credit card, but it may be one of the best times in recent U.S. history to purchase land.


MYTH: You need hundreds and hundreds of acres to farm

First of all, you could support your whole family on only a couple well-managed acres.

On 30 or 40 well-managed acres, with a diversified farming operation, you could earn enough money to live a simple, humble, and wonderful life without having to work off of the farm.

As with any business that you might try to start on your own, you don't want to try to do everything at once. Start small - baby steps - learn and learn some more. Expect to not make any money the first few years; in fact, you might even lose money the first year or two.

Is farming going to be for everybody? No. I just feel like the option isn't discussed enough.

INDEPENDENCE AND SELF-RELIANCE

I haven't really been on this earth long enough to know, but I think we used to have this thing called The American Dream. If I'm not mistaken, this "dream" had something to do with becoming an independent, self-reliant person; someone who takes care of themselves and their own.

Maybe that way of thinking doesn't even apply anymore, but I think there is real value in choosing a profession that will allow you to eventually become an independent person.

The way I see it, I have two options in terms of careers (and so does everyone else):

  1. I can work for someone else, doing something that they have deemed to be important to the function of their business (the government included), and in exchange for my work they will pay me money that I can live off of.
  2. I can start my own business and work for myself, doing something that I’m interested in, and I will earn money that I will allocate to myself, and I will reinvest my earnings in the business

There's risk involved either way.

It appears to me that life is fraught with uncertainty, and maybe I’m a bit of a control-freak but I’d rather be as independent as possible than rely on someone else to make sure that I can put food on my table and a roof over my head.

I don't think there's a profession out there that allows for more independence than farming. First, you produce your own food, Then you produce excess food, and you sell that food to others.

It's the profession I'm headed for, anyway. Thanks for reading this article - truth is, I wrote it for myself as much as for anyone else.

Comments

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  • donnah75 profile image

    Donna Hilbrandt 4 years ago from Upstate New York

    I love that you talk about the importance of small, local farms. We need more of those and less corporate ones. I have several students who will be farmers, and I try my best to instill in them that it is in fact a business. They need that business mind to make the most of it. Great discussion here. Voted up and sharing.

  • Farmer Rachel profile image
    Author

    Rachel Koski 4 years ago from Minnesota

    Thanks, Donnah :) I'm really glad to read that you have students that will be farmers. There really is a growing problem in the country with the small amount of young people who will take up the plow, so to speak. Our farmers are getting old! I don't want to see all of the nation's farmland end up in the hands of only a few gigantic producers. Thanks for the voted and shares!

  • purnimamoh1982 profile image

    purnimamoh1982 4 years ago

    Dear Rachel, I am so glad that I had an opportunity to visit your this hub. My husband has a long standing aspiration to become a farmer and we are desperately trying hard to accumulate enough land to be able to have an occupational shift. We are from India where every year thousands of farmers are committing suicide due to distressed financial condition. But there are more success stories than failures. We certainly need more people who can grow food. You are very true. One can have a very decent life even with a few acres of well managed farm. voted up and followed.

  • tigresosal 4 years ago

    Thoroughly inspired. Thank you for sharing such a wonderful hub. Voted up and followed.

  • unknown spy profile image

    IAmForbidden 4 years ago from Neverland - where children never grow up.

    I love the idea of farming. I love to plant all kinds of fruits and vegetables. I used to visit my cousin's place and spend all entire day at their farm picking mongo and other crops to harvest.

  • MakinBacon profile image

    MakinBacon 4 years ago from Louisville Area

    Whether small or large farming, the future is bright for those that want to serve local, regional, national, or even international markets. Commodity expert and billionaire Jim Rogers notes that the most successful people in the world in the near future will in fact, be farmers, based upon the statistics you wrote above, which are very similar for those farmers in other parts of the world.

  • Farmer Rachel profile image
    Author

    Rachel Koski 4 years ago from Minnesota

    purnimamoh - Thanks so much for the wonderful comment. I wish you and your husband the best of luck in your search for land. If you really want it, I'm sure you'll get what you need. Take care and thanks for reading and commenting :)

  • Farmer Rachel profile image
    Author

    Rachel Koski 4 years ago from Minnesota

    MakinBacon - Thanks for the endorsement :) I believe that what you and Jim Rogers say is true. I've also got some "old men" in my life who keep telling me that if they had it all to do again, they would be farmers. Thanks for reading and commenting.

  • Farmer Rachel profile image
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    Rachel Koski 4 years ago from Minnesota

    Sounds like you had a great time at your cousin's, unknown spy. I love the idea of farming, too. Thanks for the comment :)

  • Farmer Rachel profile image
    Author

    Rachel Koski 4 years ago from Minnesota

    tigresosal - Thank you for reading! I was happy to write this and publish it. This hub is as much a reminder to myself of why I've chosen this path as it is a persuasive argument to others. I'm glad you enjoyed it, and thanks for the shares and votes.

  • Natashalh profile image

    Natasha 4 years ago from Hawaii

    I love your hub and I love the idea of being a farmer. Problem is, I also want to live on a boat. I feel like I will have to make some decisions in the future! Anyway, having to least a few acres is one of my life goals. I used to have a yard, but now I'm stuck with what I can grow in an apartment. Which can be a surprising amount, actually. Voting up, useful, interesting, and awesome!

  • billybuc profile image

    Bill Holland 4 years ago from Olympia, WA

    I love this hub, Rachel, and the message you are delivering. Farming is a wonderful tradition in this country. Of course it means hard work but it is work you can be proud of, and at the end of the day you can look in the mirror and feel good about yourself. I come from a family of corn farmers in Iowa, and I'm going to return to that life in three years, and I am so excited.

    Great hub my friend!

  • Deborah Brooks profile image

    Deborah Brooks Langford 4 years ago from Brownsville,TX

    You are so right if we didn't have farmers and farms then we wouldn't have food.. vegetables and fruits.. Oh gee.. I thank you and anyone that does this. I love to plant my tomatoes and vegetables in the summer.. put them up for the winter.. Bless you for writing this hub

    sharing

    Debbie

  • Made profile image

    Madeleine Salin 4 years ago from Finland

    I love this hub. I think I would enjoy being a farmer, but I'm not sure I could make a living from it. We are planning on having some sheep next summer. It's something we have wanted for years. I really like animals. Now we just have cats. This hub is so inspirational. Thank you Rachel! I enjoy reading your hubs. :)

  • Michelle Taylor profile image

    Michelle Taylor 4 years ago from New Jersey

    You make a lot of excellent points! Especially with the population continuing to grow, a steady supply of food might become hard to come by. Everyone has to eat and if more people grow their own food it will go a long way in staving off a food shortage. I am planning to buy a home in the near future and one of the main factors I am looking for is finding a place with enough land to grow on. From talking to random people it seems as if small victory gardens are becoming more and more popular with a younger (20's & 30's) crowd. Voted way up and sharing!

  • Farmer Rachel profile image
    Author

    Rachel Koski 4 years ago from Minnesota

    Michelle - Good point about the growing population. Many places in the world have already been dealing with food shortages. Thanks for the comment.

  • Farmer Rachel profile image
    Author

    Rachel Koski 4 years ago from Minnesota

    Made - Good to hear from you! Sheep are really fun to keep. Maybe you could sell lamb. I don't know what the markets for lamb and wool are like in Finland, but here they are doing well and are stable. Good luck with whatever you do, and thanks for reading and commenting!

  • Farmer Rachel profile image
    Author

    Rachel Koski 4 years ago from Minnesota

    Debbie - Thanks for your kind words. Producing good, whole healthy food is important, and I think it's wonderful that anyone can learn to do it.

  • Farmer Rachel profile image
    Author

    Rachel Koski 4 years ago from Minnesota

    Bill - I can't wait til you get your land and we all get to start reading about it in your hubs! Iowa is actually a really nice place. I myself am headed back to my roots in Minnesota, within the next year. So exciting... Thanks for reading, Bill, and keep it simple! :)

  • Farmer Rachel profile image
    Author

    Rachel Koski 4 years ago from Minnesota

    Natasha - Container gardening is great! I bet you can grow an amazing amount of food in an apartment if you're dedicated to it. Hmm, a boat on a farm... bet you could find a piece of land with a little piece of lakeshore, just enough to launch a boat from ;). Good luck to you, and thanks for the comment!

  • Casimiro 4 years ago

    As usual Rachel, you have put forth the issue succinctly in an informative way. I wonder if you might make a series on this theme to help those who are considering farming as a career, maybe some real-life examples.

    Another advantage to farming is that it is an area of knowledge that can be applied all over the world. In fact, many countries, e.g. Canada, are short on people with farming knowledge and offer special arrangements for you if you immigrate to their country to farm.

  • Farmer Rachel profile image
    Author

    Rachel Koski 4 years ago from Minnesota

    Casimiro - Ya know, making a series is a great idea. I wonder where to start! You make a good point there about the need for farmers in other nations, as well. I know a guy who spent almost a year in South Africa teaching people how to use oxen for draft power so that they could grow crops - pretty cool. Thanks for the comment :)

  • Casimiro 4 years ago

    You're welcome.

    They still use oxen down here in CR for certain jobs, such as hauling firewood and pulling 4x4 trucks that are stuck in the mud! We have about 4 teams in our neighborhood. Most local festivals (there are lots of those) usually feature the oxen pulling very colorfully painted carts.

  • Farmer Rachel profile image
    Author

    Rachel Koski 4 years ago from Minnesota

    Very cool, Casimiro. We have a young steer here at the farm in training to be an ox.

  • howcurecancer profile image

    Elena@LessIsHealthy 3 years ago

    Voted up! Interesting and useful.

  • Pamela-anne profile image

    Pamela-anne 3 years ago from Kitchener, Ontario

    Great topic and well thought out- you have a good point in saying we will basically always need farmers to grow food for us all to eat. I never thought of it as a profession but you are right it is no different in becoming a lawyer, doctor etc. Thanks for sharing!

  • Blond Logic profile image

    Mary Wickison 3 years ago from Brazil

    You have stated this exactly right. My husband and I moved from England to a small farm in Brazil where we raise tilapia. I had never even heard of tilapia. There were a few in the lake when we arrived and when we had a couple of guys, come in and net them, they were sold in about 10 minutes. Then we had our light bulb moment. We bought 2000 fish the first year and 10000 the next. Then the drought hit. We spend most of our days outside, this is a complete change of lifestyle to that which we had.

    Like you said, you don't have to have experience but the ability to research is crucial.

  • Farmer Rachel profile image
    Author

    Rachel Koski 3 years ago from Minnesota

    Blond Logic, thanks for the comment! Sounds like you and your husband have a pretty sweet life :). My husband and I are off the small farm we were managing in Pennsylvania and have moved to Minnesota, where we're living a different and less ideal lifestyle while scouting out a piece of property that we can buy. Can't wait to get back to farming!

  • Rosie writes profile image

    Rosie writes 2 years ago from Virginia

    My sister, a teacher, decided to have chickens. She now has 25 and sells their eggs, giving some away too! She really loves it.

  • gardener den profile image

    gardener den 2 years ago from Southwestern, Pennsylvania

    Farmer Rachel Keep up the great work! Gardener Den

  • DrBill-WmL-Smith profile image

    William Leverne Smith 2 years ago from Hollister, MO

    Well - presented discussion on an important topic. Thanks for sharing your insights. I grew up on a family farm. Wouldn't trade that experience for anything. Now, I write about families and farms. Hope you'll stop by for a visit. ;-)

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