Georgia farmers stepping in to mentor the next generation

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Published: Aug. 25, 2022 at 11:31 AM EDT
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ALBANY, Ga. (WALB) - The average Georgia farmer is almost 60 years old. That’s according to the latest Agriculture Census.

Now some Georgia farmers say they’re willing to mentor the next generation.

Adam McLendon said if you are a parent, farmers like him are willing to invest in your child’s future. Reaching out to your UGA Extension Office is an easy way to get your foot in the door.

“They’ll learn, ‘yes, this is what I want to do.’ Or they’ll say, ‘this is not what I want to do, I want to do something more secure,’” McLendon said.

McLendon said even if you don’t decide to become a grower, the connection you make is still valuable.

UGA Tifton Professor Dr. Barry Croom thinks education will create more young farmers.

Croom’s objective is to get kids excited about reading about agriculture. Reading is something that he struggled with while growing up.

“We wanted to design it in terms of, not just students reading the textbook, but they’re conversing with the textbook. If we can convince students to read more, then that’s going to set them up to be successful no matter what career they go into,” Croom said.

Croom said he wouldn’t pick up textbooks that weren’t engaging to him as a kid.

“When you think about textbooks in high school and middle school time you think, ‘oh no, I got to get the textbook out, why me?’ You know ‘what kind of day am I going to have?,’” Croom said.

McLendon said there’s another big barrier that needs to be crossed.

“You do not see a lot of non-generational young people getting into production agriculture because it’s a scary thing to get into,” McLendon said.

McLendon said there are more jobs in agriculture than just being a grower, but there need to be more producers to replace others that are getting older.

“The benefit that I received from my dad and from my grandfather. I understood a lot of the planning risk that go along with it,” McClendon said.

He said today’s volatile market makes it hard for kids to want to become farmers. So they will more likely chase a more stable job instead. He is exposing his young children to the business to carry on the tradition. If they don’t, that’s one fewer farm.

Georgia’s Agricultural industry generates $70 billion with more than 350,000 new jobs. Educating people on how to educate the youth helps feed that system.

Croom collaborated with other professors over the past two years to create a nationwide education textbook at the college level.

“We’re trying to find resources that are cutting edge, contemporary with contemporary language,” Croom said.

He said today is different, so professors need to be equipped to teach today’s kids.

Croom is also trying to get more teachers in the field.

“We like to think that the University of Georgia is coming to them. We have students here in the biological and the agricultural sciences and agriculture education. They can get their degree here,” Croom said.