"Average age of our farmers is getting older, some say its around 58 years old, says Steve Estes," the Jones County Extension Agent.
The average age is one reason the USDA's Farm Bill, released in February of 2014, offers incentives and provides resources to get young people started in the farming business, which will be an important part of the nation's future.
"So, we are kind of faced with maybe a problem heading down the road with getting new farmers in to pick up producing our food and fiber for our country," says Estes.
One Jones County man has been helping his grandfather farm for years, but has decided farming is what he plans to make a career of. He says it was not easy to break into the business.
"I was eighteen when I started. You know having to go to the bank and borrow very large amounts of money to buy seed and fuel. I mean that was tough for somebody as young as I was, explains Gage Thomas.
Now Gage Thomas is 22 and in the middle of his fourth season of farming.
Although Thomas does not qualify for the new farmer incentives the USDA is offering since he has been farming for more than three years, he is glad the government is encouraging people his age to get in the business.
"I think its a great thing. It wasn't there when I started and I am glad for people who are trying to get into it now that it is there," says Gage Thomas.
Even though he is past the start up point, he says each day brings new challenges. "Its scary everyday. We have a lot of money tied up in everything we do," says Thomas.
It helps, he says, having his grandfather, Bob McLaren, there to show him the ropes.
Despite the daily challenges, Thomas wouldn't have it any other way. "Its the greatest life I can imagine. Being able to work in my back yard and be my own boss and watching crops grow."
To learn more about the Farm Bill, click here.
To learn about the programs and incentives offered to new farmers, click here.
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