Where is everybody under 65?

This article was originally published in The Journal  on February 11, 2019 and republished by The Firelands Farmer. 

Last Monday night, I was in another county helping my colleagues teach a recertification class. All of the attendees had previously completed an initial training to certify their ability to use fertilizer and/or pesticides appropriately and were due to renew their licenses to the Ohio Department of Agriculture.

We had a dozen people in the audience, most who have been through multiple three-year cycles of recertification since their initial licensing.

During a break between topics, one of them pulled me aside and asked, “Where is everybody under 65?”

We looked around, and noticed that the majority of the audience was near or past the average retirement age.

“I ask myself the same thing regularly,” I told him.

The truth is that across our country the average age of the American farmer continues to creep up year after year. They are continuing to farm well into retirement. They are experienced, capable, and knowledgeable, but the clock is ticking on how much longer they can carry the weight of feeding America. Eventually, they will retire or pass on and a new generation of farm managers will inherit their responsibilities.

In our region of Ohio, many of those farmers that are positioned to fill their shoes work a full-time, off-farm job. They often are working in partnership with an older relative, a sibling, or their own children. Schedules are tight, money is tight, and daylight hours are gone too soon.

In the midst of all those factors, it is understandable that other tasks are of higher priority than attending a class on one of the rare evenings they have free. At the same time, these farmers probably need the help of Extension the most.

Family farm relationships can be challenging; learning how to calibrate a sprayer can be mind-boggling; keeping farm records up to date can be difficult; calculating which type of lime is the best value can be confusing. That is what Extension is here for, to help farmers develop these kinds of skills.

Do you farm in partnership with someone that fits this description? If so, please encourage them to utilize the services Extension has to offer. It is crucial for the future of agriculture that we reinforce an understanding and appreciation for the value of the next generation of farm managers. We want to see an influx of 20, 30, 40-something aged farmers at our programs.

Educators like myself are trying to reach out to those younger farmers to get them the tools they need to be successful. Our resources are available through one-on-one interactions in the office or the field, workshops, field days, fact sheets, videos, podcasts, and social media.

So, share the information with your young farmer friends, encourage them to go to the trainings, and maybe offer to take their kids to sports practice and ice cream while they spend a few hours polishing their skills.

You need them for the future of your farm and America needs them for the future of food.

Find information about first-timer trainings for Pesticide and Fertilizer Applicator Certifications, Beef Quality Assurance, A.I. School, and more below and online at www.noble.osu.edu. Call or email Christine at 740-732-5681 or gelley.2@osu.edu to learn more.