Who will replace Kansas’ aging farmers?


RENO COUNTY, Kan. (KSNW) – As the average age of a farmer continues to increase, agriculture experts are asking who will take their place.

However, a recent Washington Post article citing the United States Department of Agriculture points to some good news for the agriculture industry. According to the USDA, for only the second time in about the last century, the number of farmers under 35 years old has increased.

“I think there’s opportunity for young people to actually come back to the farm. Whether it’s a small town by a town, getting a niche market or it’s building on a big farm like we are, there are opportunities there and there’s a lot of older farmers that are willing to give it there,” said Jenny Burgess.

Jenny Burgess, 33, is a first generation farmer. She and her husband Geoff own Burgess Hill Farms in Reno County.

“My husband came along and we both had the same dream of raising our kids out in the country and knowing the value of the farm work itself,” Burgess said.

The Burgess’ both left their day jobs to begin their farming journey in 2008.

“That was difficult for us to hear some people say ‘you’re not going to make it’ and we are out to prove them wrong. We are still out to prove them wrong,” Burgess said.

The couple has gone from farming 300 acres of land to about 2,500 acres in the last 10 years.

“It’s a feeling of awe that what we do everyday has an impact on that family down the road on their dinner table,” she said.

However, Burgess is one of just a handful of young farmers. USDA statistics show the average age of a farmer is 58.3 years old.

“It’s hard to find young ones to come and work and we are just one of the few that decided to do so,” Burgess said.

However, it seems others are beginning to follow in the Burgess’ footsteps. The number of farmers ages 25 to 34 has increased by about 2 percent or by more than 2,000 people, according to the USDA.

Burgess admits a couple thousand more young farmers won’t replace the high number the industry is losing to age, it’s a move in the right direction.“It’s something you don’t just say, ‘hey, I’m going to be a farmer one day,’ it’s a good dream to have, but you have to work very hard at it. There are opportunities out there. That’s the positive side. It’s there and you need to know when to grab it,” Burgess said.

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