The New, Young Face of Farming

When we think of the millennial generation and their jobs, where do we imagine them? Maybe working in a start-up company with an open workspace. Or possibly launching a business from their home.

What I’m sure very few of you imagine is a young person waking up at 5 a.m. to till fields and feed livestock. However, young farmers are a growing trend.

According to NPR, the average age of a farmer in the U.S. is 58.3, a number that has been slowly rising for over 30 years.  But, in the northeastern states of Maine, New Hampshire and Vermont that trend is reversing.

In Maine, farmers under the age of 35 have increased by 40 percent. The national average increase is only 1.5 percent. So what has caused this explosion in the northeastern U.S.?

Land is relatively cheap in the northeast and according to Deseret News National, this generation has a greater concern about environmental health and sustainability.

Photo Courtesy of NPR.
Jennifer Mitchell of NPR pointed out that this is, “…a generation that has grown up in the digital age, but embraced some very old-school things: the farmers market, craft beer, artisan cheese. The point, they say, is to find a way to live high quality, sustainable lives, and help others do the same.”

In Ohio, the same trend can be monitored just on a slightly smaller scale. In the 2007 census, farmers in the 25 to 34 age range were 2.3 percent of total farmers. However, in the 2012 census that percentage increased to 2.8 percent, which is higher than the national average.

On the heels of millennials in pursuing agriculture is Generation Z, those born in the mid-1990s. In 2014, membership in Future Farmers of America reached 610,240 and 4-H became the largest youth organization in the U.S. The influx of youth includes those from urban and non-farm backgrounds.

The Ohio Farm Bureau has an entire group dedicated to young farmers in Ohio called Young Agricultural Professionals. The group hosts various events to help young farmers and others in agriculture learn new ideas and develop their leadership skills.

This weekend, Jan. 30-31, the Ohio Farm Bureau is hosting the Young Ag Professionals 2015 Leadership Experience for young adults ages 18-35 who share a passion for farming, rural living and/or local foods.

These trends point to a bright future ahead for the agriculture industry, which is vital to Ohio as agriculture is the state’s #1 industry!

What do you think about the increase of young farmers in the U.S.? How do you think this will affect agriculture in years to come? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below.

'Tis the Season for Plentiful Pumpkins Across Ohio

Fall season has arrived in Ohio and along with it a favorite crop for food and fun: pumpkins. From pumpkin pie to Jack-o’-lanterns, Ohioans are beginning their fall family traditions.

Luckily, Ohio will have an abundant selection of pumpkins this season. According to The Columbus Dispatch, Ohio’s pumpkin fields have been plentiful thanks to just enough rain and sun in August and September. 

“This may be one of our best years we’ve ever had,” Jim Jasinski, a pumpkin expert and agricultural official with Ohio State University’s extension service, said. “We really didn’t have the high temperatures that we had last year. It was perfect conditions.”

Ohio is the third largest pumpkin producer behind Illinois and California. In 2013, Ohio’s pumpkin crop was low, yielding only eight tons per acre, compared to a usual 10 to 20 tons. The smaller pumpkin harvest also led to higher prices last season.  But, this season yields are up 10 to 15 percent.

According to the Toledo Blade, most of the state’s crop is used for Jack-o’-lanterns or other decorative purposes and that market is worth about $15.4 million in Ohio.

Jasinski shared with The Columbus Dispatch a few recommendations for finding the right pumpkin this season.
  • Select a pumpkin with a few inches of good, green stem.
  • Find a pumpkin with few nicks and gashes. Those marks will harbor bacteria and cause the pumpkin to melt down on your front porch.
  • Look for a traditional-looking pumpkin, one that is deep orange with a smooth rind and few projecting ribs.
This season in Ohio, the perfect carving pumpkin should be easy to find!

What are some of your fall family traditions? How about your favorite Jack-o’-lantern design? Share with us in the comments below.

Photos courtesy of the Toledo Blade, DIYNetwork and Sandusky Register.

Ohio State Extension Grain C.A.R.T. Assists with Grain Bin Safety

As we enter harvest season, grain bins throughout the state are beginning to fill up. Now, is the ideal time to revisit grain-bin safety and highlight an innovative training and education program from the Ohio State Extension.

According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, grain bin entrapment is when a worker enters a bin and is either suffocated by grain or the bin develops hazardous atmospheres.

Entrapment can happen under several scenarios, which includes standing on moving grain causing it to act like quick sand, grain collapsing and engulfing a worker or trying to move grain while in the bin.

In 2010, grain bin entrapments hit an all-time high with 51 workers being engulfed and 26 dying. Younger males are the largest group of victims.

According to an NPR investigation, about 180 people have died since 1984 from grain-related entrapments on federally regulated sites.  However, most deaths occur on small family farms that are not regulated by the government.

Ohio State students from the Department of Food, Agricultural and Biological Engineering decided to address this hazard by designing a trailer, The Grain C.A.R.T., to assist with grain bin entrapment training.

The Grain C.A.R.T. (Comprehensive Agricultural Rescue Trailer) is a 40-foot flatbed trailer equipped with a fully functional grain bin, grain leg and gravity flow grain wagon.

The C.A.R.T. is part of a training program designed to assist the Ohio Fire Academy with real world scenarios for grain bin entrapments and help OSU Extension with education and outreach.

“To have a mobile training unit is much better than what we’ve had in the past,” said Dee Jepsen, OSU Extension state agricultural and safety health specialist, in a Marietta Times article. “We can just pull it in, conduct training for a weekend or even a day, then move it out and be done. It’s quite a project and we are so excited about it.”

The training program has set up at county fairs across the state where people can witness live demonstrations of people being rescued from grain bins. Communities interested in using the Grain C.A.R.T. for training purposes can work directly with the Ohio Fire Academy to receive access.

To learn more about the Grain C.A.R.T. training program, click here.

What do you think of this new training program? How will programs like this enhance farming safety? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below.

Photos courtesy of OSU Extension and the Marietta Times.