Recruiting the next generation of farmers

Do you ever wonder during your drive along Powder Mill Road, with its rolling hills and acres upon acres of farmland and dairy research buildings, why you won’t see farmers out in the field at the University of Maryland’s College of Agriculture and Natural Resources?

I used to work as a contractor at the Food and Drug Administration and took Powder Mill Road every day to and from work.  Never once did I see a tractor, a farmer student, or equipment anywhere in the fields. There are more cows than people I have seen on campus grounds.

Curiosity got the best of me. What’s going on with the university enrollment?  After two repeated calls and several email attempts to the University of Maryland’s College of Agriculture and Natural Resources, I tried to just simply ask for their enrollment data.  I identified myself as a blogger, but alas, I received no response since Feb. 3, 2017.

So what is the University of Maryland trying to hide?  After all, tuition there is over $20,000 per year for a Maryland Resident and double the price for a non-resident!

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With tuition rising at UMD, no wonder why students would shy away from a farming career. It’s thankless work and requires way more hours than a regular 9 to 5 office job, let alone the salary differences.

What is troubling about the lack of attention to the demographics in the U.S. on an agriculture in general. According to the most recent data from 2015, the average age is 55 to 64 years of age (USDA Censuses of Agriculture). Since 2002, there have been more older producers than younger.

With all the excitement of urban kitchens, urban farm plots, school farm plots, and other healthy initiatives from government sponsored programs, the data is just not showing that there is a strength in numbers for people working full-time in a career in agriculture. There are plenty of volunteer gardening opportunities and we make a huge deal of Earth Day in April, but this country is lacking some energy and commitment to seeing this as a career avenue.

Universities need to do a better job not only showing us the enrollment data, but also giving this country a big picture of agriculture crisis we will have in the next decade.




Author: Kimberly Kweder

33 years old, career woman, Pittsburgh native, and loves projects that involve communications, social media, and international development.

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