Not a pipe dream: growing up Oregon’s next generation of farmers

Editor’s Note: This is the second installment of a two-part story. In the first part, KOIN 6 News examined the growing age of American farmers and spoke to three farmers about why it is so difficult for young people to break into the industry.

CLACKAMAS COUNTY, Ore. (KOIN) – The farming community knows they have an age problem.

More than 60% of Oregon’s farmland is expected to change hands over the next two decades as farmers retire, according to a Oregon State University Report 2016. But we do not know who will continue his work by feeding the world.

Traditionally, the children and grandchildren of farmers have taken over the farm, but “there is no guarantee that the next generation of these families will want to continue working in agriculture,” according to Oregon Farm Bureau president Barb Iverson.

“It is essential that Oregon’s farm and ranch families plan for succession and prepare for the next generation of skilled farmers to take over the operation, whether the next generation is in or out. outside the family, ”Iverson wrote in an email to KOIN 6 News.

The Agriculture Office has made efforts to offer succession workshops to members who may be considering retirement. His Young farmers and breeders program aims to cultivate the next generation, giving them opportunities to learn, network and bond with their peers.

Nationally, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) touts the “New Frontier for science and innovationAnd adjacent jobs on the farm in fields such as biology and robotics.

Agriculture has always been one of the “high-tech industries,” according to Marion County farmer Austin Chapin, although many people may not see it that way.

“We have had autonomous tractors, GPS tractors for over 15 years. How many self-driving cars are there? He asked, laughing.

Austin Chapin (right) and Leanna Chapin hang out with their sons on the family farm in Marion County (KOIN)

Fourth-generation farmer Evan Kruse agrees. “For agriculture to be seen as, you know, wearing coveralls and standing in the field with a hoe, that’s not the reality,” he said. “It is a wonderful field of study for people who demonstrate good scientific skills. “

However, working on tractors and combines is not the same as owning a farm, and if that is the goal, there is only one way to go – to get land.

Leasing can be a promising strategy for beginning farmers and ranchers who need to gain experience and put themselves in a better financial position to qualify for a loan later, according to the report. OSU “The Future of Oregon’s Farmland”.

When buying, some beginning farmers find it difficult to obtain loans, especially from traditional lenders. One option the report highlights is Northwest Farm Credit Services’ AgVision program, specifically aimed at people 35 and under, or who have less than 10 years of farming experience. The USDAThe Farm Service Agency’s also targets a portion of its beginner loan funds.

A loan is often the only option for first generation farmers like Beth Satterwhite. She and her husband are currently renting out a small piece of land in Yamhill County, but hope to buy their own farm soon.

“One of the reasons I love farming is that it’s very real and concrete and what I do every day is visible, and I feed people,” Satterwhite said “I don’t know how to do it so that this translates into a world where a young person trying to buy farmland doesn’t seem like a stupid pipe dream.

Encourage “Nobel Prize Winning Ideas”

External criticism is beginning to weigh on young farmers. For Satterwhite, it gets squeaky when people say farm work doesn’t require any skills, that immigrants are “stealing our jobs” or that the food is too expensive.

Beth Satterwhite at her farmer’s market stand in 2018 (Even Pull Farm)

“When you go to a farmer’s market, the person selling you your food is more than likely the farmer or knows the farmer directly,” she said. So when people complain about the price it’s’ deeply personal because we’re relying on you to buy my head of lettuce for $ 2.50 so we can pay our crew and our bills and maybe buy a farm someday. “.

Kruse, who almost let the opinions of others dissuade him from his dream job, said society tends to look at doctors and farmers on opposite ends of a spectrum.

“You want brilliant people to give you brain surgery,” he said. “But at the same time, you don’t have brain surgery every day. You better get a good one when you need it, but shouldn’t we need good farmers every day? “

He would like the education system to stop pushing students in one direction.

“We will have many more people to feed over the next decades, the world’s population is going to explode and we will need Nobel Prize winning ideas to make it happen,” he said.

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