Where Did the Farmers Go?

I came across an article via The New York Times the other evening titled “Farm Population Lowest Since 1850s.”Naturally intrigued, I began reading the article and was alarmed when I came across the following statistics:

“An estimated 240,000 people left the land last year, dropping the nation’s farm population to its lowest level since before the Civil War, the Government reported today.

Officials said an average of 4,986,000 people lived on farms in 1987, or 2 percent of the United States population of 243.4 million. That compared with 5,226,000 in 1986, or 2.2 percent of the national population of 241.1 million.

The figures were derived from an annual survey by the Census Bureau and released jointly with the Agriculture Department. A preliminary report was issued on Feb. 8.”

As upsetting and disturbing as these statistics are to me, they, unfortunately, are not new statistics for me, personally. The article goes on to explain that by 1850, farmers and their families composed roughly 64% of America’s 7.7 million workers, and in 1920, farmers and their families made up only 30.2% of America’s population.

That’s a tremendous decrease.

The article discusses how the occupation of farming has experienced a general downward trend since World War I, and that there have been minimal increases in the popularity of farming since.

Hence begs the question; where did the farmers go?

It is common knowledge in the agricultural community that a majority of farmers nowadays are between fifty and eighty years of age, and in many situations, they do not have any predecessors to take over their operations. This means that their years of labor and hard work will ultimately come to an end, and further that the population is in dire need of young farmers.

I personally find it devastating that agriculture is not more strongly promoted in society. I thoroughly believe that individuals are not aware of the significant consequences that will arise when farmers become a rare presence in our society, and when that day does arrive, I fear that there will be no promising direction to turn towards. Agriculture is an absolutely crucial component in our everyday lives, and the time is now for acknowledging its importance.


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