Is This The Last Generation?
November 21, 2011
The facts seem arrayed all against our young farmers. Economics is no friend, especially the massive capitalization required to generate a living income. Social trends aren't helping either, starting with the fact that this is the first generation whose parents recognize they deserve a healthy retirement.
In a way, the job is against them too. Today's 55-and 60-year-olds think of the kinds of decisions that keep them awake at night, and they tally the hours that they must put into farm management and then they sometimes shake their heads, wondering what this job has to do with the job they thought they were signing on for.
These parents look at the photos of graduates from our ag colleges and wonder how long they'll still be smiling.
But that's why it's good to talk to the kids themselves. If you're looking for self pity, you'll have to look elsewhere. If you want self-awareness though, and if you want a clear-eyed understanding of the realities of farming, you will find it here in spades, more than in any preceeding generation, including their parents'.
We aren't wearing rose-coloured glasses. We know that the number of sons and daughters from this generation who make it as farmers will be much smaller than the number of their parents who are retiring.
We also know that many of these new farmers will farm in ways that are unrecognizeable to their parents. But if you question their commitment, or if you doubt their ability to succeed, do please read the stories in this issue, and then flip through some back issues as well (and keep your subscription up to date too, because we are determined to keep bringing you stories about young farmers).
What we're all learning is, if you're in your 50s or 60s, optimism is your job.
Here's one example why. I got a recent call from an Alberta purebred cattle producer in his late 50s with a prosperous farm and a good reputation. He has four children, none wanting to stay on the farm, but he wants the farm to continue and would like nothing so much as to find a young person to work and buy into it over time.
Not surprisingly, it has been a struggle to find that young person, not because they don't exist, but because our ag communities are so spread out now, we no longer have a way to get the news about such opportunities out to our young hopefuls.
How this can be in an agriculture that has new program announcements rolling out of Ottawa and the provincial capitals every other day and that has more commodity organizations collecting and spending more fees and checkoff is hard if not impossible to fathom.
Some boards are making progress, and they're to be congratulated. But the point is, the kids are doing their part. Now, more of their parents generation need to realize optimism isn't an emotion, it's a job, and like every job of the farm, it's to be approached with energy, commitment and innovation
By Tom Button Is Editor Of Country Guide Magazine
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