Technology, temporary help keeps farmers on job longer | 7/10/2019 | Staff
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At 79 years old, Art McManus says he's still able to hop on the tractor and maintain the 160 acres of cherry trees at his orchard in Traverse City, Michigan.

His children have gone on to start lives of their own, though he gets some help running his farmers market from his daughter-in-law. But he hires seasonal help to keep the cherry operation moving. "I've been at it all my life," he says. "I enjoy it."

McManus - Farmers - Country - Technology - Help

For McManus and many farmers across the country, assistive technology, help from seasonal hires and family members, and a general improvement in the health of U.S. seniors in recent decades have helped them remain productive well into their 60s, 70s and beyond.

Farmers staying on the job longer can restrict land options of younger farmers, making it harder for beginners to crack into the industry, experts say. They worry that without the older farmers, there might not be enough younger people interested in agriculture to support America's food production needs.

Problem - Milt - McGiffen - Agronomist - Plant

"It's a problem," says Milt McGiffen, an agronomist, plant physiologist and researcher at the University of California, Riverside. "There isn't a magic bullet to fix it. And the other problem is you have less people going into ag and you need more food coming out the other end" with a growing U.S. population.

In the U.S. last year, the median age for domestic farmers, ranchers and other agricultural managers was 56.4 years old. That's the highest median age of any major occupation tracked by the government's Current Population Survey for which data was available. The age has ticked up by half a year since 2012, despite the median age of the entire labor force falling slightly over the same period.

Percent - Farmers - Years - Age - Year

Nearly 29 percent of farmers were at least 65 years of age last year, and less than 13 percent were...
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