The USDA recently released its latest Census of Agriculture. This census is done every five years, unlike the population census.
For all of us ag nerds, it was chock full of interesting information. Here are a few tidbits:
- The total number of farmers is down, with the decrease in female farmers being greater than the decrease in male farmers.
- 70% of farmers now have the internet (up from 57% in 2007!)
- The average age of farmers is 58.3 years old
- 57% of farmers sold less than $10,000 worth of crops/livestock (This is total sales, not net profit.)
- 70% of farmers report that less than 25% of their income comes from farming
What do all these numbers mean?
For our family, they illustrate that farming is a very risky business (and not in the Tom Cruise underwear and socks kind of way). And although things can change in an instant, FOR NOW, we are among the lucky ones. We are safe. We have a roof over our heads. We can pay our bills. We are happy. We are blessed.
My husband is a 7th generation farmer. That means we were lucky enough to have a bit of a head start with land and knowledge of the business side of farming. The sad truth is that it is extremely difficult to get into farming without being “born into” it. Land prices are sky rocketing. Equipment costs are in the six-figure range. That is why nearly HALF of farmers aren’t turning a net profit. Talk about terrifying. These are the people producing your food and growing the crops that make your clothes, fuel your cars, and become your craft beer.
The census shows that we aren’t all the stereotypical 80-year-old white male in coveralls who sits at the gas station drinking coffee and arguing about the weather. Ok, some of us are. But most of us have young children in rural areas where there aren’t always a lot of family, friends or
TARGET conveniences of modern life.
We may be somewhat isolated but we want you, the general public, to know about our farms (and not just from a census). We want you to see what we are doing, to know that 97% of us are family businesses, to know that we are just like you (but with a lot more corn and cattle). Please ask us questions, read our blogs, tour our farms…just call first so we can change out of our coveralls.
The #1 thing the ag census indicates to me is that our numbers may be declining but our passion for farming is at an all-time high.read more