State House Sound Bites

Capitol reporter Katie Meyer covers Pennsylvania politics and issues at the Pennsylvania state capitol.

The State House Sound Bites Podcast is now called State of the State and is a part of PA Post, a digital-first, citizen-focused news organization to hold Pennsylvania’s government accountable to its citizens.

PA Post's State of the State podcast: So, you want to be a farmer?

Written by Katie Meyer/WITF | Jan 11, 2019 7:14 AM

4-H leader Kelsey Bollinger, of Manheim, Pa., leads her Milking Shorthorn named Sadie during the 103rd Pennsylvania Farm Show in Harrisburg, Pa., Wednesday, Jan. 9, 2019. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)

(Harrisburg) -- Picture a farmer.

If you're like a lot of people, the first thing that popped into your brain might have been a man in overalls and a big hat, maybe standing in a field, possibly on the older side.

Of course, you know that's a caricature. Anyone can be a farmer. Still, the image of an older male farmer is pervasive, and if you visit the Pennsylvania Farm Show, it may not appear all that inaccurate.

But farming is changing, in Pennsylvania and elsewhere.

For one thing, farmers are aging. The USDA's 2012 agriculture census found that of the commonwealth's 7.7 million acres of farmland, 41 percent is owned by people 55 or older. It also found that while 4,909 farmers in the commonwealth are 34 and younger, 16,725 are 65 and older--more than three times as many.

For comparison, the 2002 survey found 5,186 farmers 34 and younger and 12,816 farmers 65 and older.

Plus, while family farming is still a tenet of the industry, particularly when it comes to smaller farms, it's increasingly common for farmers' children to opt out of the family business.

So this year at the Pennsylvania Farm Show, we talked to a lot of farmers--longtime farmers, new farmers, future farmers--to learn how they think the industry is going to keep evolving and changing in the years to come.


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