Census Shows Shifting Demographic Trends in Kentucky's Agriculture Industry
2017 Count Finds Growing Numbers of Female, Young, and Beginning Farmers
This is the third in a series of five stories taking a closer look at Kentucky statistics from the 2017 Census of Agriculture.
LOUISVILLE (May 31, 2019) — Kentucky had more female farmers in 2017 than in 2012 and significant numbers of new and beginning producers, young farmers, and farmers with a military background, the 2017 Census of Agriculture revealed. The census was conducted by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS), and released in April.
“The results of the 2017 Ag Census suggest that the aging of the Kentucky farmer is leveling off and we are cultivating a crop of young and new farmers who will carry Kentucky agriculture into the next generation,” Agriculture Commissioner Ryan Quarles said. “The census also reflects the growing influence of women as leaders and primary decision makers on Kentucky farms. With these results, I am confident that Kentucky agriculture has a bright future.”
The average age of the Kentucky farmer inched up to 56.2 years, up from 55.6 in 2012. The census found 13,643 young producers (ages 35 and under) and 35,433 new farmers, identified as those in farming 10 years or fewer.
In 2017, 42,946 women farmed in Kentucky, up 36.7 percent from the number identified in the previous census. Of those, 33,550 were involved in making day-to-day decisions on the farm, 26,215 were the principal producers on their farms, and 12,648 listed farming as their primary occupation, the census found.
The census identified 12,998 Kentucky farmers with military service. The category for producers who currently serve or previously served in the U.S. Armed Forces was included in the agriculture census for the first time in 2017. The Kentucky Department of Agriculture (KDA) administers the Homegrown By Heroes brand, which identifies farm and food products produced by military veterans and active-duty personnel.
“Kentucky was the first state to develop a brand to recognize agricultural products produced by farmers who are military veterans or who are currently serving in the Armed Forces,” Commissioner Quarles said. “We believe agriculture is a natural progression for people who have devoted their lives to serving their fellow Americans. The KDA is committed to helping veterans and active-duty service men and women find careers in agriculture and making it easier for consumers to find and buy their products as a way to thank them for their service.”
The Census of Agriculture provides a detailed picture of U.S. farms and ranches every five years. It is the leading source of uniform, comprehensive agricultural data for every state and county or county equivalent. Census of agriculture data are routinely used by agriculture organizations, businesses, state departments of agriculture, elected representatives and legislative bodies at all levels of government, public and private sector analysts, the news media, and colleges and universities. To find out more about the Census of Agriculture, go to nass.usda.gov/AgCensus.
The NASS Kentucky field office is operated in cooperation with the Kentucky Department of Agriculture.
Agriculture Commissioner Ryan Quarles, at right on tractor, joins Kentucky military veteran farmers and Kentucky Department of Agriculture employees at the Homegrown By Heroes float that won the Chairman's Award at the 2019 Pegasus Parade in May in Louisville. (Kentucky Department of Agriculture photo)