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Senior Contributor

We're all getting old...but too old?

Saw some interesting info today comparing the average age -- and median age -- of farmers versus the general U.S. labor pool. Everybody says all the farmers are getting old...well, it turns out so is everybody else! So, maybe ag's not as "old" as some folks would like to say. Interesting remarks from Carl Zulauf over in Ohio.

 

So, what do you think? I know this cold drizzly weather here around Des Moines is makin' me feel old today! 

 

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46 Replies
Honored Advisor

Re: We're all getting old...but too old?

Jeff, thanks to the mismanagement of our economy in recent decades, and people's mistaken notion that the drunken consumerism could go on indefinitely, many older Americans are having to work longer. Their hilding onto jobs prevents younger workers from filling their positions, thus effectively raising average (mean) and median age of the workforce two ways at once.

If your retirement investments got melted down, you need to keep working. If you counted on flipping the house you are occupying, so that you can downsize and cash in, you are pretty much screwed, holding a mortgage in an often upside-down, overly expensive house that you cannot unload for love or money today. Yes, you can do a short sale, but there can be huge tax consequences, and you will be renting from there on out.

Throw in the debacle of the ACA, which I believe has both stymied new hiring and scared mature workers from taking retirement just yet, and you see more pressure to keep punching the clock. Energy prices, food prices...what is really cheaper today?
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Senior Advisor

Re: We're all getting old...but too old?

see my comments to your front page article.

I think the aging of the American farmer is one of the worst things that can happen to agriculture.  It hurts diversification, destroys communities, tears the fabric of rural society and harms the environment because old farmers want to sit in air conditioned tractors and tear up the soil instead of work cattle, raise hogs and sheep, cultivate pasture and grow their iown food.

 

Will it change?  Not at all.  It will get worse.

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Honored Advisor

Re: We're all getting old...but too old?

Gee, Jim...now i feel bad for hanging on a long. Honestly, I feel that the older we get, the more we feel that our legacy ( which isn't the estate we leave, but is rather all the intangibles attached to it) matters. Is a farm better or worse because of your tenure on it?

In youth, the focus is more on empire building, maximizing productivity. In time, optimizing productivity and arriving at the realization that there is a limit to what you can do for a living and still have a life, take precedence. I would like to think that the differnc is what we think of as the wisdom that comes with old age.
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Senior Advisor

Re: We're all getting old...but too old?

Quote from Jim  :  I think the aging of the American farmer is one of the worst things that can happen to agriculture 

 

I totally agree  Jim -- As  have got older - I'm just not as tuff as when I was inmy 20's - 30's - 40 ' amd well dang it my early 50 's -- It just not fun aging ! lol  My durn rght kneew is Killing me - it's swollen most of the time , walk like a -- well -  better not say ,

 

But to me - i have to wonder if Raiseing hogs - Raiseing cattle - The 40 million little square bales we put up - alone will forking ----  is why this old farmer is looking forward to just rideing around in a A/C tractor - or combine - or sprayer than farming like use too -- it was fun at the time - but to me --- no more .

 

And now Kay --your turn : )    In youth - for me - there was no mountain to high to not be climbed and would do so  - sometimes just to prove it - Now I just look at that moutain and say - boy isn't that pretty --Is that just knowledge kicking in ? lol

 

As I have got older - sometimes --- farming has just become boring to me - I need to be doing something - different - just plant - harvest - then go to FLA -- ? = Double boring -  If not for doing plot work - I would go crazy - well maybe I should say -- more crazy - lol

 

Got to go -- Wife said it's my nap time --- : )

 

 

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Senior Advisor

Re: We're all getting old...but too old?

Not trying to slam you ECIN, but I disagree almost 100%. I've held a full time job since 1993 and returned to the farm in 1998 but didn't get fully involved until about 2005 all the while maintaining full time off the farm employment. I've feed cattle in nice weather and also during a blizzard while fighting snow clear up to my crack if you follow me. If I were financially able (and I'm getting close) I would farm and raise cattle full time. After a day at work compared to a day on the farm isn't even comparable in my opinion. There is just something about being your own boss and challenging yourself to do better the next year.

To me, farming is almost like fishing. A bad day at either is still better than a good day at the office. All this is my opinion of coarse.
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Senior Contributor

Re: We're all getting old...but too old?

Pretty much ditto to what shaggy said. I'd love to have a couple hundred cows and maybe even hogs. Just can't see the return on investment, time as much as financial.
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Highlighted
Veteran Advisor

Re: We're all getting old...but too old?

Shaggy, I agree with you 100%. I work 12 hour shifts in a warehouse. In the winter months Ill go 3 days without seeing the light of day. I look at farming like it is the ultimate business challenge, and its a labor of love. Most farms in my area seem to be in a generational shift. The older farmers are getting too old or sick to continue running the farm on their own. If no younger generation is there to take on the farm, the large operations simply absorb the older farmers farm, and that family farm is nothing but a memory.

Senior Contributor

Re: We're all getting old...but too old?

I would have to choose other with the comment

Younger than me.

 

Hard to think what the % is compared to when I started farming.

There certainly were a lot more young people, people my age then but there were alos a lot more older people.

There are just a lot fewer farmers now so not sure the % are rally that much different.

 

I do have several naeighbours who are all younger than me but have 20 something kids home working with them.

 

Very few of the ones that were starting when I did are still farming, a couple but they are like me doing less work and moving more to share cropping or renting.

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Senior Advisor

Re: My two cents worth

The aging of the farm populations has transformed a great many farmers into crop farmers. Manual labor for an aging population is probably good for us health wise but the aches and pains that come with it make seniors sell the cows and sows and convert to corn and beans. That and the commercialization of livestock production. Mega feeders and contract feeding have reduced demand for local production of market hogs. I don't even know if packers want to deal with a small time producer when they can go to mega pork and get steady flow of tasteless pork on the kill line.

 

You would think there still would be a demand for a fat layered pork chop that tastes wonderful. The skinny chop can be slavered with enough butter in the cooking process to improve taste. MY kids used to devour Iowa chops as quick as we would buy them. I'll bet none of the 3 could tell you the last time they had a grilled pork chop. And that used to be on their tables every week.

 

So the older farmers are going to crop production and the younger farmers are as well. It ake a lot of money to finance an sizable livestock operation and alot of labor as well. So the young guys are opting for shiney new tractors and combines as well and trying to rent every acre in sight.

 

But be advised you young whipper snappers are getting soft in that youdon't do the manual labor that us old timers did. You don't have the experience with a scoop shovel or a manure fork. I can't hardly beleive that we did all that. I worked for a rather progressive livestock man wnd we fed hogs and cattle and scooped most of the feed that went into them and forked most of the feed after it had been through the animals. It kept us in really good shape for anumber of years.

 

Alas those days are gone. Those young chaps ride the tractors and combines and then have to go to health spa to keep in shape. We scooped feed and manure and ate like pigs and never gained an ounce. Now I am making up for it. I quit scooping  but i never quit forking into my own mouth.

 

So tmes are a changing and the old are getting older. High prices make older farmers more ambitious. Its more fun to work when you are well rewarded. So some hang on as long as health permits. We got guys in their 80's still farming or helping farmers and the average farmer is getting older as well. The youngsters don't find it easy to get a start. Especially those with out a family land base. Like Jim says I think it is going to get worse, Much worse and i don't think there is a way to reverse the trend.