By Jesse Bussard
We manage three things in ranching – grass (land), livestock and money. It’s a fairly simple model when you look at it this way.
However, if you are someone who doesn’t have one, some, or all of these three things, getting started in ranching can seem like an impossible task to achieve. If you are a beginning farmer or rancher you know exactly what I am talking about.
Access to the land and capital are the biggest obstacles USDA’s Economic Research Service (ERS) cites for beginning farmers in a report they released on January 30. The report showed that between 1982 and 2007, the number of farmers who operated farms for less than 10 years (USDA’s definition of a beginning farm) had declined with the number of young principal operators.
In addition, it was determined that the number of principal operators under the age of 35 had fallen from 16% in 1982 to an all-time low of only 5% in 2007. Another interesting fact to note is in 2011 the average age of beginning operators was 49, while established operators had an average age of 60.
While these numbers seem somewhat concerning, they also seem contradictory to the growing passion I see in so many young people for agriculture. The fact is that the numbers only tell us part of the story. They do not give us the details of what else is going on behind the scenes. Yes, access to land and capital are indeed challenges the next generation of agricultural producers face. But is this really the cause of the problem? I say, no.