Agriculture has always been and will always be an important aspect of society. Without it we wouldn’t have food on the table, clothes to wear, or even plants to make medicine. In the present day, we are in an era of growing technology with greater access to jobs and opportunities. When you analyze these trends, we start to see an increase in the age of the farmer leaving our agriculture industry in jeopardy. The average age of the farmer has been increasing with each agricultural census that is taken with the highest population of farmers ranging from 55-64 years old.
New Mexico specifically is on the higher end of the spectrum, which poses many crucial problems. We all know that agriculture is a prominent and necessary component for any civilization to thrive. With a wider range of opportunity opening for the youth of the nation, we find the demand for jobs in agriculture is declining. Recent media publications rank agriculture as one of the least useful degrees. This poses a threat to the industry of agriculture because of a lack of lineage to take over as generations pass.
In order to further understand this trend and where it is heading, we can start to study the USDA Census of Agriculture. When comparing the 2007 Census to the 2012 Census, we can observe a steady increase of the age of the farmer from 59.6 years to 60.5 years of age. To further avoid the negative effects of not having a consistent agricultural community, we need to start increasing the percentage of young farmers. An idea as to why the average age is increasing is that there are fewer young people taking on jobs in agriculture, which is leaving a generation that is getting older as time passes. Even though we do see this increase in age, New Mexico still serves as a great agriculture state.
New Mexico has seen a 17% increase of agricultural products, totaling $2.55 billion since the 2007 Census. This data proves that as the years pass New Mexico is becoming a hotspot for agriculture, creating jobs and experience for young farmers. In order to keep New Mexico growing and strong there must be a focus on educating and inspiring youth to pursue agricultural careers. Through USDA advertisements stressing local food and agriculture published since 2010 and onwards, we have seen a peak in interest in agriculture especially from the youth.
From the 2012 Agriculture Census, we can see that the number of farmers 25 to 34 years old is increasing slightly compared to 2007. Though it is a small increase, it is a step toward the right direction. There is also a decrease in farmers aged 35-54 years old and an increase in farmers aged 55+ years when comparing both censuses.
Looking at the years of 1982-2012, there has been a steady increase in the average age of the principal operator starting at 51 years old and increasing to 58 years old in the most recent census.
Exposure and education are two critical components to getting younger people involved in the industry. It is easy to forget or take advantage of our agriculture industry and it’s hard to imagine what life would be like without it. This is why we need to involve more youth in the business and pass on the practices. Such programs as Youth Farms, Ag Star, and even New Mexico’s own Young Farmers and Ranchers Program and the New Agrarian Program show potential and outreach towards the community. Though the age of the farmer is growing in New Mexico, so is the community of new agrarians. Agriculture will always be a crucial aspect of our society because it provides us with one the greatest necessities of life. To inspire new farmers will give our state’s agricultural system the energy it needs to flourish in the future.
-Posted by Tyler