More and more farmers are staying active on the farm at an older age. One in four is at least 65 years of age.
But eventually, these farms will be taken over by younger farmers. If the trend of the past continues, some farms will converge creating larger farms being operated by fewer people. This has caused a decline in both the number of people farming and the number of people providing support services to farmers.
Although, we will never again see an 80-acre farm support a family, we can stop or maybe even slightly reverse the trend of consolidation that has continued for more than a century. The key is to encourage the development of markets for farm products that are labor intensive but earn premium prices.
Organic farming is responding to a growing demand and is an example of how to keep earning as much with fewer acres. Iowa farmers could also try to replace some of the traditional feed grain production while expanding labor-intensive truck farming.
Besides changing the types of crops grown, another way to reverse the population decline in farming areas is to increase the processing of agricultural products near where they are grown.
This not only means meat production but also includes energy production. Meat processing has declined in the type of earnings provided while the new energy production industry creates fairly high paying jobs.
We need creative ways to make fewer acres profitable.