David Buys, Mississippi State University – Still Growing While Growing Older: The Story of Agricultural Producers in the U.S.

Our farmers are getting older.

David Buys, state health specialist and associate professor at Mississippi State University, examines how we can help the industry find new farmers.

David R. Buys, PhD, MSPH, CPH, FGSA is the State Health Specialist for Mississippi State University Extension and an Associate Professor in the Department of Food Science, Nutrition, and Health Promotion at MSU. Dr. Buys leads research-based public health education in Mississippi’s 82 Counties with over $16 million in federal agency funding. He has authored 57 peer-reviewed articles. Dr. Buys completed formal training in medical sociology, health services research, and epidemiology at Mississippi College, Auburn University, and the University of Alabama at Birmingham. He is Certified in Public Health by the National Board of Public Health Examiners and a Fellow of the Gerontological Society of America and the Royal Society of Public Health.

Still Growing While Growing Older: The Story of Agricultural Producers in the U.S.

Agriculture is one of the cornerstones of modern civilization, and it is important to attend to those who tend-very literally- the crops and animals that keep us fed and clothed.

In the United States, many of our farmers grew up in the ag industry, having seen their parents farm and in some cases taking that operation over from them. However, that seems to be shifting. In a matter of only about 50 years, the average age of farmers has increased from 50 to 57.5.

This pattern of the increasing age of farmers holds true across the country, so this is not just an oddity of a certain region. The reasons for this vary—1) consolidation of farms has increased in the last few decades meaning some of those who would take over for their parents are likely to leave the farm; 2) it is difficult- and costly- to break into rural communities to begin farming; and 3) the stress of the work is great, leaving some folks who otherwise may be interested in agriculture to take a different path.

While we need to pay attention to these demographic patterns, we absolutely should not be alarmists because we have a robust agricultural system in the United States, and our farmers, regardless of their age, are get-it-done kind of folks.

With knowledge comes responsibility- and the knowledge of these changing demographics among our farmers calls us to consider how we can respond. Policy solutions are among the best actions to consider. And the Farm Bill may be the single best piece of legislation where we can address the need to equip younger generations to enter or stay in agriculture and ensure that our aging farmers are well-cared for. At the personal level, we are all beneficiaries of agriculture—usually at least three times a day— and can express extra gratitude for the farmers that grew the food the next time we enjoy a meal.

Read More:
[The Conversation] – America’s farmers are getting older, and young people aren’t rushing to join them