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The average age of a farmer in the U.S. is 57.5 according to the latest Census of Agriculture, continuing a trend of aging agricultural producers. Meanwhile, 75 percent of beginning and aspiring farmers under the age of 40 in the U.S. did not grow up on a farm.

A critical farmer shortage looms, and without the traditional transfer of knowledge between parents and children, aspiring farmers need hands-on opportunities to learn the intricacies of stewarding land, tending crops and running a financially viable business.

Farmer education, training, and networking opportunities are more important than ever for the long-term security of our food system. We also know that today’s young and beginning farmers overwhelmingly favor sustainable practices—in Pennsylvania, for example, the majority of certified-organic farms are operated by farmers under 45 years old, while the majority of farmers overall in the state are 45 or older.

Fortunately, state and federal agencies are beginning to recognize the need to develop the farmers of tomorrow through new programs, apprenticeship cost-share opportunities, and workforce development resources. 

Our state- and federally registered farming apprenticeships, are growing the farmer workforce and opening up new career opportunities in sustainable agriculture.