Young farmers: We’re pulling for you

Young farm couple

By Susan Crowell /

The Farm and Dairy newsroom spent a lot of time last year discussing young farmers.

How and where do they get their news? Do they even pay attention to news? What do they care about? What do they want, or need, to know? What are their challenges? Their frustrations? Their goals?

Where does the next generation of farm owners fit into the current ag picture, and what can we do to showcase some young, full-time farmers?

Our first profile in our Young and Farming series — featuring Columbiana County dairyman Joel Smith — is the result of those conversations. And we hope you read his story and hear Joel talk in a short video excerpt about why he farms.

It’s tough out there for farmers right now, and it’s even tougher for young farmers right now. They face high barriers to get into farming, like high land prices, low equity and low prices for farm goods. And farming is complicated, too. The hours are long, the work is dirty, the stress is never-ending.

Read: Young and Farming: Joel Smith

But here’s the thing: Everyone is pulling for the 20- and 30somethings. We want you to succeed. We need you to succeed: 400 million acres of farmland are going to change hands in the next two decades, so we need the best and brightest to keep ag going.

I’ve never met a farmer who wouldn’t lend a hand or a word of advice to a sincere, hard-working young person trying to get started in farming. Elders, do you remember what it was like to be young and farming? Make time to encourage these young people whenever you can.

You can help us, too, by identifying some really good young farmers for us to spotlight. You can call us or email us or Facebook message us. Give us the name of an up-and-comer, along with some contact information and a little background to help us decide if this individual is a good fit for our Young and Farming series

Together we can support these young farmers, and share their joys and struggles.

  • • •

Speaking of struggles, we all know it’s not just the young farmers who are feeling them right now. I ask you all not to ignore your mental well-being, and the mental health of your friends and family.

Last month, the Do More Agriculture Foundation was launched in Canada. It’s a nonprofit organization focusing on mental health in agriculture. The “do more” name encourages those in agriculture to “talk more, ask more, listen more.”

“Agriculture is an industry with a foundation of deep rural roots, hard work, resilience, strength and community,” the foundation notes on its website. “In order to uphold that image, those traits can also be the industry’s weakness as they become barriers for speaking up and seeking help.

“Producers are among the most vulnerable when it comes to mental health issues. Stress, anxiety, depression, emotional exhaustion and burnout are all higher among producers than among other groups.

“… We will help all producers realize they are not alone and they have an entire industry behind them.”

I’m very proud of our neighbors up north for their work in breaking the stigma that exists around mental health — and talking about it. I hope we can follow suit.

This week, when you see a fellow farmer, or a farming friend, make “How’s it going?” a real, honest question, rather than a greeting.


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