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Farmer Age: Not a Problem, But an Opportunity

Todd Gleason

University of Illinois Extension
Carl Zulauf, Emeritus Agricultural Economist
The Ohio State University

May 22, 2024
Recommended citation format: Gleason, T.. "Farmer Age: Not a Problem, But an Opportunity." Department of Crop Sciences, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, May 22, 2024. Permalink

Carl Zulauf, an agricultural economist emeritus from The Ohio State University, recently spoke with Todd Gleason University of Illinois Extension farm broadcaster about the age of U.S. farmers.

Zulauf’s farmdoc Daily article, titled “Age of U.S. Farmers: Not a Problem” challenges the common perception that an aging farmer population signifies trouble for American agriculture.

Dispelling the Myth of a Farmer Aging Crisis

Zulauf acknowledges that farmers are, on average, older than the general population. However, he argues that this is primarily because farming requires significant capital investment, which takes time to accumulate. Importantly, he highlights that since 1960, U.S. farmers have actually become younger relative to the overall population.

Prosperity Breeds New Farmers

Zulauf observes a correlation between economic prosperity and the number of young people entering farming. The current distribution of farmer ages, with a higher proportion under 45, reflects the positive agricultural economic conditions since 2006.

Reframing the Issue: Entry, Not Age

Zulauf suggests that instead of focusing on age itself, the discussion should center on entry barriers, particularly for those who don’t come from farm backgrounds. He emphasizes the need for clear identification of the specific challenges before formulating policy solutions.

Supporting Aging Farmers

Zulauf recognizes the passion many farmers have for their profession and their desire to stay active well into their later years. He proposes that policy should also address the needs of older farmers by:

  • Implementing programs that enhance mental acuity and physical dexterity.
  • Developing extension programs specifically tailored to the challenges faced by aging farmers.
  • Encouraging technological advancements that can improve safety and enjoyment for older farmers.


Zulauf’s perspective offers a welcome counterpoint to the often-gloomy narrative surrounding farmer age. By acknowledging the resilience and adaptability of the agricultural sector, his work paves the way for more nuanced policy discussions that consider the needs of both young and old farmers.

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