Talk of Iowa producers work on the show as host Charity Nebbe (back, left) interviews farmer Isaac Phillips and Practical Farmers of Iowa's Luke Gran. (Andrea Silenzi/KCUR)
What do you get when you combine an aging workforce, high initial capital costs and a risky business? Well, the farm sector is finding out.
Many young people interested in farming have trouble getting into the business, even as the average age of farmers continues to climb. [Check out this interactive map of the aging farmer population] Land prices are sky high and beginning farmers rarely have the money to buy viable farm land and the expensive equipment they need. Many, in fact, have off-farm jobs in order to pay the rent.
Tyler Franzenburg farms about 80 acres with his dad, but he doesn’t consider himself a farmer – yet. That title, he said, comes with owning land and deriving most of your income from it.
“I don’t really think of myself, truly, as a farmer because it’s really a small part of what I do,” Franzenburg told Talk of Iowa’s Charity Nebbe.
Franzenburg said he’s always wanted to be a true farmer, but he can’t afford it yet. Instead, he has three or four other off-farm jobs that help keep him afloat. He’s hopeful though, that one day he’ll be able to make farming work.
“Since I was very little I don’t think I wanted to do anything else,” Franzenburg said.
Helping farmers like Franzenburg get into the business isn’t easy. That’s why ag advocates are using innovative programs that match prospective farmers with established ones – farm mentoring programs designed to help older farmers pass on their land to good stewards and help beginning farmers get the knowhow they need to succeed.