IN THIS MONTH’S ISSUE, you’ll meet Andrew Barsness, the young farmer on our cover who didn’t grow up on a farm but is making a go of it in Minnesota. Like any grain farmer, he battles broken equipment, mishaps (combine fires!) and ever-changing crop prices. And last year he battled the weather: A hard frost damaged two-thirds of his soybeans before he could get them harvested. Who but a farmer could take a hit like that, chalk it up to bad luck and keep going? Not many, I’d guess.
For all who care about farming’s future, the statistics on young farmers are cause for concern. According to the USDA Census of Agriculture, the number of farmers under the age of 45 dropped 26 percent between 2002 and 2012. Data from the most recent census, taken in 2017, starts rolling out next year; I’m anxious to learn where things stand now.
This issue may provide a clue. On page 34, popcorn farmer Pat Green introduces readers to his granddaughter Emily, who at age 9 already knows she wants to have the same career as her grandpa. On page 21, 14-year-old Kaitlin Fehr writes of her passion for growing and preserving her own food. Kaitlin and Emily, like Andrew, defy the statistics. “I farm because it’s the only path I’ve ever truly been passionate about,” Andrew writes in his farm diary, which begins on page 25.
The optimism of these young folks is inspiring to those of us who wonder if we could muster the courage to pull the planter out of the barn after a major loss and try again. And as someone who likes to eat food and wear clothing, I’m grateful to the young farmers and ranchers willing to work and plan beyond the bad years. Here’s to them.