New Generation of Farmers Gets Down to Roots

Last year, the U.S. Department of Agriculture distributed $18 million to educate young farmers across the country.

Though the number of young growers is increasing, the average age of farmers nationwide continues to creep toward 60, according to the 2007 Census of Agriculture. The census, administered by the Department of Agriculture, found that farmers over 55 own more than half of the country’s farmland. In response, the 2008 Farm Bill included a program for new farmers and ranchers.

Tom Vilsack, the secretary of agriculture, said he hoped some beginning farmers would graduate to midsize and large farms as older farmers retired. “I think there needs to be more work in this area,” he said. “It’s great to invest $18 million to reach out to several thousand to get them interested, but the need here is pretty significant. We need to be even more creative than we’ve been to create strategies so that young people can access operations of all sizes.”

Read more about young farmers in this feature story published by The New York Times.