The Aging of the American Farmer

Changing Lands, Changing Hands: What does this demographic shift mean for the country? Listen to the radio series and watch the video.

TV Special: Watch the TV Special

5-Part Radio Series: Listen below.

Farmers are getting older. They’re working longer, staying on the land later and continuing to do what they’ve done for decades: heading out day after day after day to work their land.

In 1978, the average age of the American farmer was just over 50. In 2007, it’s creeping toward 60, at just over 57 years old. What does that mean for the agriculture industry? We want to answer that question by focusing on this massive demographic shift that affects not just rural America but the power and potential of an entire industry.

Changing Lands, Changing Hands, a production of NET News (Nebraska) and Harvest Public Media, examines the implications of a large amount of land--and wealth--changing hands in the next few decades. What will be the effects on the farmers, consumers, local communities, the agriculture industry and our nation?

Part 1: Retirement? Not on the Farm
Twenty-five percent of farm operators are over 65. Why do farmers keep working? Modern machinery makes it easier to work longer. Many farmers are making more money today than ever before thanks to higher yields and high grain prices. Also, some farmers just won't quit. Listen to/read part 1.

Part 2: Turmoil in Farm Transitions
How land gets passed from one generation to the next can vary widely. And not all farmers plan ahead for the change. Even as the average age of farmers creeps upward, few families make all the plans they could for smooth transitions. Listen to/read part 2.

Part 3: Retiring to the Farm Anything But Quiet
It’s not just lifelong farmers who feel the pull of the land as they get older. For some Americans, retirement is an opportunity to begin the farming dream. Listen to/read part 3.


Part 4: A Civic Lesson for Rural Towns
Better established farmers are often very active in the civic life of communities, but as the farmers continue to grow older that leadership diminishes. Listen to/read part 4.


Part 5: Young Dreams, Huge Obstacles
Young people still want to farm, but in smaller numbers and in different ways. It can be difficult to turn dreams of a farm life into reality. Listen to/read part 5.



Harvest Public Media reports on farm and food issues in collaboration with public media stations across the Midwest. For more information, go to