Sometimes I have to pinch myself to make sure my life isn’t a dream. I feel so fortunate to have a writing career that allows me to work remotely from the ranch, where my husband Tyler and I raise cattle with my folks. Technology has enabled me to have a job that helps with the cash flow, while allowing me to enjoy the rural lifestyle. Being in the cattle business, having family just a jog down the road and being able to support myself — it’s my dream come true. Sure, it has its ups and downs, but I feel blessed just the same. As it turns out, an increasing number of young people are finding their way home, as well.
In a recent Farm Press Blog post, Ron Smith wrote a piece entitled, “Back To The Farm For Young Professionals.”
An excerpt from Smith’s blog reads, “More young people, those in their 20s and 30s, are abandoning careers with large companies where they feel stifled, and heading back to the farm. Some are going back; others are taking up the plow for the first time and are taking advantage of programs in ag colleges that train people how to farm. The advantages would be obvious to anyone who ever lived and worked on a farm. Farmers, to a certain degree, can be their own bosses—set their own time schedules, decide what crops or livestock to produce, determine acreages to allot for vegetables, fruit trees or livestock.
“They set up their own marketing programs. They can sell to local markets, set up their own sales facility, develop a pick-your-own enterprise or sell at local farmers’ markets. They also might opt to sell to larger companies that ship across country or export. A lot depends on location, enterprise size and capital. They also know that living in the country can be a lot less hectic than making a stressful commute every morning and every evening through bumper-to-bumper traffic.
“A lot of these agri-entrepreneurs are returning home, going back to farms and ranches they left after earning college degrees and trying out careers away from the farm. In some cases, those professions simply didn’t offer them the kind of lifestyles they had hoped for. For others, the failing economy may have made agriculture look a lot brighter. Projections indicate that U.S. farmers had a good year, for the most part, in 2011. Too much rain in some places, and way too little in others, created hardships for many. And new farmers must be aware of those hardships.
“Anyone who goes back to the farm or takes up farming for the first time, regardless of the size of the operation, must be aware that agriculture is not stress-free. Farmers face challenges other industries don’t consider. A hailstorm late in the season can destroy a year’s work. A late-spring freeze can kill newly emerged plants, fruit-tree blossoms or newborn livestock. Prices go down; production costs rise; consumer preferences change. The work is hard and the outcome is often uncertain. Start-up costs can be extremely high, especially in areas close to cities, where the demand for local produce will be the greatest.”
Yet, despite these challenges, Smith says that young people are eager and willing to try their hands in production agriculture. This is good news for the future of agriculture, a relief to the aging population of ranchers and, finally, a reassuring outlook for global food security.
I feel like I can’t ask this question enough, but today, I’m seeking advice for young people returning home. In this profession, we can always learn and grow. What are the pros and cons of ranch life? How have you overcome obstacles over the years? What do you wish you had known then that you know now? Offer some advice and be entered in one final giveaway for 2011. I will be giving away $100 VISA Beef Bucks, courtesy of the South Dakota Cattlemen’s Auxiliary, to one lucky reader who answers today’s question. The winner will be announced tomorrow,
What’s your best advice for young farmers and ranchers?