We just spent a night at the local minor league ball park with some of our county Farm Bureau friends. We have a really active county, and one of the most active aspects of it is the Young Farmer Committee. While Joe and I feel like this is something we would like to be a part of, we can't seem to make it to the monthly meetings. Call me crazy, but I'd rather get a babysitter to see a movie, rather than go to a meeting! Plus, Joe, in all of his 35 years, is nearing the end of his "eligibility" as a young leader participant.
Even Joe is considered by the Young Farmer Standards as "seasoned," I did some research on this. Thanks to some simple googling, I found that the average age of the American farmer is OVER 60 YEARS OLD!!!!! This average shocked me at first, but then after doing some inventory of the farmers that surround us, it seems to be right on the money.
Why is that?
Why is our county's young farmer committee so active and quite large, but I can count on one hand how many of these young men and young women actually make their main income from production agriculture (meaning, animals and/or grain). Instead, most of the members have their connection to agriculture through agribusiness, which is great, but isn't it misleading? Although I think Joe would have a lot to talk about with these young people, if they're receiving a check from Monsanto or Pioneer or whatever, they don't have to worry too much about the impending heat and its affect on the hay that is left on the ground.
So, again, where are the real young farmers?
Well, there aren't many, according to the national average numbers. Although I have always liked being a stand out, I'm not sure if this is something I'm so jazzed about. Seasoned farmers around here are good and bad for Joe and me. We look to them for guidance and wisdom, but there has to be a peer group that can fill the "I work with you, so we can talk about work and potentially gripe about it" gap. I enjoyed (and still enjoy) my work friends. Joe liked his colleagues when he was working. Now, however, it's almost as if we are too young for the seasoned farmers and have too little time to hang out, or even seek out, the younger ones.
From my little knowledge on this topic, I know that there are organizations we could join. I get that. But, there has to be a way for farmers to network, besides spending a precious evening discussing policy, or, the more "old school" approach: coffee shop talk. Seasoned farmers have their routines, and there are two distinct categories, in my limited research. The "over 60 crowd" around here are either meeting- or coffee shop-goers. With kids and calves and corn, Joe hardly has time for our nightly meeting, and I think I might go crazy if he were to announce that he was going to be gone multiple nights or days for such things.
However, I realize that we have to be open and go seek out younger farmers, but unlike when my grandpa started farming this land, there's no "up the road" neighbors in our peer group. They are wonderful neighbors, don't get me wrong, but they aren't ones that are of our same age bracket.
I'm not pleading for friends. . .however, there was a time when we first moved up here, being lonely and the mother of two children under two that I nearly stood up in church during joys and concerns, voicing that I was a normal human being who needed friends. . .but I digress. . .What I am hoping for is a company picnic once in awhile that doesn't involve a plot tour. When is Dekalb hosting a family outing? Where are the trips to the Bahamas for the farmer who buys the most seed, rather than for the person who sells the most?? When is a seed corn cap going to be a thing of the past, and a gift card to a pizza joint be the norm? If production agriculture wants to up its average age, it should start by thinking about its marketing strategies.
But then again, who's in charge of this marketing??? Maybe it's some one like me!! That's it! There's my calling. . . now how to do this???