It’s probably no surprise that if you grow up on a farm, you have a strong connection to the land and to the value this industry provides. Data from a new survey conducted by the Coalition to Support Iowa’s Farmers find that 70 percent of the state’s students would like to farm in the future — the same percentage that currently lives and/or works on a farm.
The survey was done at last month’s 94th Iowa FFA Leadership Conference, which brings together thousands of young people from across the state to learn about careers in the agriculture industry, compete in various events, and shape the future of the Iowa FFA Association. The survey garnered 258 responses.
Members identified several obstacles deterring young people from pursuing a career in farming. High start-up costs were identified by 35 percent of young farmers, 21 percent identified lack of available land, and 20 percent said the amount of work involved in farming were some of the biggest challenges for young farmers to get started.
McKenzi Young, a senior from Earlham High School, grew up on her family’s farm raising horses and hay. Young enjoys showing Western Pleasure horses throughout the United States. She also shows sheep at the Madison County Fair and Iowa State Fair.
“The future of agriculture looks bright because as the population increases so will the need for new technology to be used to increase crop and livestock production,” says Young. “Because of the opportunities I see ahead in agriculture, I will be attending Iowa State University this fall and majoring in Ag Studies.” She is part of the 94 percent of students that plan to continue their education after high school.
Dyllian Hawkins, a junior at West Sioux High School, also plans to work in agriculture. He currently works part-time for Bomgaars where he unloads feed trucks, stocks shelves and provides customer service. He also shows market hogs at the Sioux County Fair and Iowa State Fair. Hawkins is very optimistic about the future of agriculture and is part of the 70 percent of students that want to raise livestock in the future.
“As young people in agriculture, we will not only have the opportunity to witness tremendous changes in agriculture, but we will play a part in helping change how things are done on the farm to improve efficiencies and offer new solutions to farmers,” says Hawkins. “We must also keep telling our story to those not involved in agriculture so they may have a better understanding about farming and raising livestock.”
Young and Hawkins’ passion is shared by other members, with 95 percent having a “positive” or “very positive” outlook towards the future of Iowa agriculture.
The nonprofit Coalition to Support Iowa’s Farmers was created by farmers to help farmers raise livestock successfully and responsibly. It’s a partnership involving the Iowa Beef Industry Council, Iowa Cattlemen’s Association, Iowa Corn Growers Association, Iowa Farm Bureau Federation, Iowa Pork Producers Association, Iowa Poultry Association, Iowa Soybean Association, Iowa Turkey Federation and Midwest Dairy.