July 28, 2005 – Posted at 3:56 p.m. CDT
CLAY COUNTY, AR -- Agriculture is big business in Region 8. In fact, agriculture accounts for more than $0.22 cents of every dollar generated in Arkansas' economy, according to the Publication Life Science at the University of Arkansas. However with fewer and fewer young farmers, the profession could become a dying breed.
“My family has farmed for over a hundred years, as far as we go back. My great grandpa farmed, my great-great grandpa farmed, and so it's in my blood,” said 28-year-old Bret Palmer.
Palmer understands the importance of the family farm, but he also realizes someone his age farming is a rarity.
“I hope that one day I can have a son that will follow me like I have my dad,” laughed Palmer.
Today, the average age of a farmer is 55, and right now in the United States, less than 6% of all farm operators are under the age of 35. The high cost of production and land, the demanding hours and low commodity prices are forcing many farmers from the fields.
“You have no control over what you are going to grow, or how much you are going to be able to produce and what you are going to get for it,” said farmer Bryan Wesley, “Most people get up in the morning, go to work and know what they are going to get paid at the end of the day. We don't have a clue.”
“If you love the outdoors and you love to farm, then it's worth the gamble. You can make it, but you've got to have the right setup. You've got to have a start,” said Clay County Extension Agent Andy Vangilder.
That start is getting harder and harder to acquire, because the very face of farming itself is changing...the family farm is slowly giving way to bigger operations.
“We got to have somebody farm this ground, and it's either a choice of several guys getting an equal amount of acreage, or we are just going to have a handful of big guys with acreage, more like corporate farming,” said Vangilder.