Choices for youth as times change
Two risk management issues are on the front burner for many in the farming community who won’t get back into the black for some time on the heels of the long drought.
The challenge of managing climate is compounded by the increasing importance of property succession in an ageing farming community.
In the last two decades, 60 per cent less farmers in their twenties have stuck with rural life.
“Less of them are willing to claim bare ground and dry dams as their own,” says 18 year old Nicola Bell, winner of the 2005 GRDC Eureka Schools Prize for Agricultural Journalism.
Nicola doubts she’ll be a hands-on farmer but aims for a journalism career that will keep her close to the land.
She won her award for addressing the increasing importance of succession planning to the health of the farm sector in a piece entitled There are two sides of the fence; edited excerpts appear on page 8.
In a recent report, Australia’s farmers: past, present and future, author Neil Barr revealed the median age of Australian farmers is now 58, that is, half are below this age and half are above and farmer numbers are in decline, down more than 20 per cent on 1986 levels.
“With the increasing sophistication of farms, demand for well trained people for rural service industries will grow,” says Cameron Archer, principal of the NSW Department of Primary Industries’ Tocal College at Paterson.
“The real effect is less people on farms but more people servicing them from country towns and related businesses.”
Now a shortage of graduates means anyone contemplating a career in agriculture may be able to capitalise on future opportunities arising from demand not just for people to work on farms but also to be employed in rural service industries.
However, when it comes to ownership and building or maintaining wealth, the reality for many owners is that “children are asking parents what the future holds for them on the family farm,” says Nicola Bell, whose family manages the property “Raby”, near Warren.
- RON AGGS
This story appears in Agriculture Today.