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OSU explores aging farmer trends

An ag economist says farmer demographics are likely a reflection of income challenges.

Ohio State University professor emeritus Carl Zulauf tells Brownfield farmers have become older in each census, with the average age at 58.1 years old in 2022.

“However, they have increased actually less in this period of time since 1960, then has the general population, so they’ve actually gotten relatively younger,” he explains.

He says more farmers enter the sector when there’s profitability.

“The over 65 farmer generation would have come into farming in the 1970s, which was a period of prosperity,” he says. “And then the under 45 has come into farming in the last 10 to 20 years, which has also been a period of prosperity.”

He says advancements in technology have also helped farmers work longer.

“I know GPS was not developed with older farmers specifically in mind, but it has really lengthened the farming life of many farmers because it’s reduced the mental stress of planting and harvesting—and farmers will tell you that,” he shares.

Zulauf says USDA requires the primary farm operator to complete the census, but in recent years additional operators have been included, which could contribute to the slower aging rate.

AUDIO: Carl Zulauf, Ohio State University

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