Agriculture Aging: Texas seeing fewer younger farmers

According to a 2007 agricultural census, the average age of Texas farmers was 59.

The census showed the largest category of Texas farmers- 57,227- were age 70 or older. Only 914 farmers were younger than 25.

These numbers have some policymakers worried about the expansion of the nation's food supply, being as Texas is among the top states for crop distribution.

"You tend to be more isolated and younger people feel like, you know, they like to be in the cities,"Texas AgriLife Extension Economist Steve Amosson pointed out. "You get a job working for a company that provides healthcare, which you don't get on the farm."

Though farming is a way of life for many in the Texas Panhandle, the numbers show that way of life is not passing from one generation to the next as it has in the past. Both Amosson and 23-year-old Brittan Gruhlkey, who is carrying on his family tradition of farming in Wildorado, added it is very difficult for younger people to get their foot in the door to begin a career in farming.

"Now that we have better commodity prices and things like that, it (farming) is more appealing," Gruhlkey said. "But you also have other challenges like land prices and input costs. A younger guy like myself has a hard time doing that."

Though nearby universities like West Texas A&M offer distinguished programs for ag students, Amosson said he thinks the trend of losing younger farmers will continue.

"As we become more efficient, we will have larger operations and fewer opportunities. And plus, again, it's going to be so difficult to get started in the business anymore. And the risk is so high. It's just going to be very hard for a younger producer to get rolling."

Since many people cannot get a steady foundation to begin farming, they are seeking other jobs in the agricultural field.

"Instead of coming back to the farm, I think a lot of them are finding jobs with chemical seed, crop consulting," Gruhlkey said. "That way, they're still in agriculture, but they're not in the one percent that's actually on the farm."

Though many his age are stepping away from the family business, Gruhlkey is sticking with it. And according to him, there is no job he'd rather have.

"This is what I've done my whole life and it is probably my true passion in life. I really couldn't see myself doing anything different."