Farmers in the United States are collectivelyentering a stage of mass farm turnover. Over 40% of farmers are over 55 years in age, and while these individuals are still hale, hearty, and enthusiastically growing the food for the nation, they are seeking to develop a new generation of young farmers ready, willing, and able to take over their successful businesses, grow new farms and new technologies, and bring agriculture into the 21st century.
Agricultural education in America has developed a stigma – parents, teachers, and community members often see agricultural careers like farming as poor options for today’s youth. However the agriculture community NEEDS fresh young blood, and this career field offers an incredibly rewarding financial
and personal path for youth with a passion for stewardship, environmentalism, global nutrition, technological innovation, and the great outdoors.
A farmer is at the root of every calorie you consume. A farmer grows the crops, cares for the animals, and promotes the responsible use of the land under his or her stewardship. These individuals are entrepreneurs, innovators, idealists, and community leaders. Farming is a valuable occupation, and a viable career field with incredible opportunities for growth and advancement.
As a career, it offers the opportunity to work your way from intern to owner, apprentice to master, small business entrepreneur to large scale industrial agricultural conglomerate. Careers are available for individuals at any level of mastery with a wide range of interests – a quick look over the agricultural career inventory sheets given to FFA students shows no fewer than 22 different agricultural industry topics!
Numerous research studies have shown that the best way to foster a love and respect for the environment in our children is to help them get their hands dirty . This love for growing and the outdoors our communities have fostered has led to a renewed interest in all aspects of agriculture, and we look to a new generation of youth to refresh the agricultural industry with their enthusiasm, hard work, and fresh ideas.
The best way to encourage an aspiring young farmer, whether it be a friend, neighbor, child, or even yourself is to help them get their hands dirty! Hands-on experiences, whether it be through job shadowing a farmer, working an on-farm job, developing an agriculture student project, or even starting an agricultural business are the most fun, most challenging, and most rewarding method of exploring this exciting career field. Potential mentors are everywhere – the curious aspiring farmer only need ask around and a bevy of welcoming farmers, extension consultants, agricultural educators, FFA leaders, 4H instructors, and fellow farming enthusiasts will be offering educational resources, opportunities to get involved in clubs, shows, and fairs, and tours of their favorite farms and gardens.
We welcome you to our Young Farmer Fieldbook, and hope it will be a helpful guide you as you consider a future in farming. Ask yourself questions as you read this book, and contact us with your comments and ideas. Our job is to help YOU succeed in farming, and we can’t wait to have you join us ‘in the field’.
Cornell University Department of Horticulture & Cornell University Teacher Education
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