In a recent article from the Boomtown Institute, from 2002 to 2007, the average age of farmers rose from 55 to 57, and the number of those farmers 75 years and older increased by 20 percent during that same time period. Meanwhile, the number of those younger than 25 has declined by nearly a third.
Because of this decline there are less and less operating farms in our communities. At Iowa State University there is a program that is ‘matching’ farmers that want to get out of the business with younger people that want to start their careers in farming. There are only a few dozen Iowa farmers that are looking for this partnership versus nearly 350 suitors. Overall this program has been very successful. They have to find the right fit. It’s similar to a dating service. Are they farrow-to-finish? Do they want large acreage or small? Do they prefer chicken to calves? Are they searching for certified organic land or standard farm land?
In this unique program aspiring farmers are paired up with a farmer in his 50’, 60’s or 70’s, usually one who doesn’t have heirs who want to have a career in farming. If personalities mesh well, the two can become partners. The hope is that in the future the “matched” partners will finalize plans to sell, rent or make other arrangement that will keep the younger farmer on the land.
The broader goal is to save the family farm and the rural economy. And as a result, there are more kids in the rural schools, there is more money going into Main Street businesses and small towns are preserved. Because of this “matchmaking” project, they are creating a win-win situation for everyone involved. The older farmer is able to slow down, the younger farmer is able to fulfill their dreams and the whole community benefits from the farm staying in operation.
It is a different way of “matchmaking” and the changing of hands for the farm, but definitely something to think about! What is the long range future of farm families in Lac qui Parle County? Do we need to be proactive and create our own LqP Matchmaker group? What will happen if we don’t come up with a plan to keep our local farms locally operated?
If you are interested in more information on this topic or would like to start regional discussions on this topic, feel free to contact our office.
(Information included in this article was from are article by Boomtown Institute)