Booming Ag Economy Bringing Young People Back to the Farm

There are more producers under the age of 40, and more women involved in production agriculture.

Published on: Sep 9, 2011

The commodity boom of recent years is creating opportunities for young people to return to the farm and ranch. Dr. David Kohl, Professor Emeritus of Ag Economics at Virginia Tech, speaks to agricultural groups all over the U.S. He lists five reasons for the economic boom in agriculture. They are emerging nations such as Brazil, China, India, and Russia that make up 20% of the world economy but have accounted for 50% of the economic growth recently; ethanol; the low value of the dollar; low interest rates; and weather aberrations that have led to short supplies.

Kohl does between 75 and 100 programs with agricultural producers a year and during the past two years he has seen a couple of trends. One is more producers under the age of 40 and the other is more women are in production agriculture. And Kohl says it's not just about making money.

"These young people are saying, hey, we have a higher calling, we're providing food, fiber and fuel for the rest of the world out here," Kohl said. "But you know what the other thing that they'll say? Farming allows them to grow their best crop, and you know who their best crop is sometimes – their children and teaching them the values and the discipline that comes from being raised on a farm."

While it's a positive trend, Kohl says the young farmer boom has not yet reached all areas of the country.  He says it depends on the commodity being produced, and also on what the rural community has to offer.

"That rural community is very, very critical," Kohl said. "I often tell people that whenever you hire an individual you directly or indirectly hire their spouse or significant other, and if that rural community doesn't have those lifestyle attributes, they are not coming back to it."