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Monday, June 01, 2020
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Future Farmers



     When I think of the fairgrounds in Louisville, Kentucky, the thoughts that come to my mind are late August, hot weather, corn dogs and sweet lemonade. Of course those thoughts are tied to my remembrances of many trips to the Kentucky State Fair in late summer. My trips to the fair maintain for me a close tie to the farming industry which is often highlighted at the fair with animals and farm produce. It was a time for farmers to display their successes in the agricultural realm for that season.

     Today I returned to the fairgrounds on a chilly winter morning during which large snowflakes were falling and collecting on the tops of pickup trucks and other farm vehicles. The trucks, old and new, were closely parked throughout the fair grounds parking spaces. I went to the fairgrounds today accompanied by my wife, daughter, son-in-law and two grandchildren to attend the National Farm Machinery show. In general we went to see the latest in agricultural equipment ,but more specifically we wanted to look at head-gates for handling beef cattle. My son-in-law and I got to view red ones, yellow ones, orange ones and blue ones up close. We finally decided that we like the blue ones best. Of course it’s not really about the color. It is about the features in the engineering design  for managing the livestock both large and small.

     A couple of weeks ago I attended a local cattlemen’s meeting and dinner. I came away from that meeting with a sense of concern. I observed around the room of 150 or more people that the average age appeared to be close to 60. I wondered to myself, "Who will be the beef ranchers in years to come?"

      However, as I walked around the equipment displays at the farm machinery show, I observed a large proportion of persons  who were under the age of 30. They looked like a hearty bunch of young men and young women. They were young people from around our nation who appeared to know much about agriculture and the production of healthy foods for the American table for many years to come.

     I worry a bit about how these young people will be able to afford to pursue farming on a full-time basis. Unless they inherit land and equipment it seems to me their road will be difficult. I looked it one big green tractor with 150 hp and a price tag of $100,000. Much of the equipment being sold was for the large mid-western farms of a thousand or more acres. Here in Kentucky, The average farm is much smaller. But even in this state, land selling for in excess of $5000 an acre makes it near impossible for a young farmer to begin operating his or her own successful production. The potential for great debt is there even before the first furrow is turned.

     But this I know. I came away from the farm show with a new optimism for the American farmer. Both young and old, we are a resilient bunch. Even if snow stands on our outbuildings and rusty equipment, we dream of new crops and a successful harvest in a season that has not yet begun. But, I guess that’s the way farmers think! God bless them all.