Every time I start to have doubts about the future of our country (usually after watching the evening news), it’s always helpful to drop in on a classroom of high school or college agriculture students. Their enthusiasm and positive outlook never fails to lift my spirits. While there are plenty of challenges facing farmers today, the young people I’ve met in agriculture have a tremendous work ethic and can-do attitude. 

A survey conducted by the Coalition to Support Iowa’s Farmers (CSIF) at the 2024 Iowa FFA Leadership Conference reinforces the belief that our future is in good hands. The survey, now in its 19th year, found that 82% of respondents plan to farm or work in an ag-related field. 

However, nearly 48% of respondents indicated that high start-up costs are a primary obstacle to beginning farmers, an 8% increase from last year’s survey. 

“My biggest concern looking forward is the lack of available land,” said Clarke Community High School senior Elli Blackford, who plans to study animal science and ag business. “Land availability and price has been a consistent issue.” 

Blackford hopes to raise cattle in the future, “but there’s a lot of unknowns,” she said.

Despite the challenges faced by young farmers, 96% have a “positive” or “very positive” outlook toward the future of Iowa agriculture. Around 80% of students plan to live and work in Iowa. 

It’s often said that there’s no better place than Iowa to grow food for our country and the world. It’s good to know that we’re also developing the leaders who will propel the industry forward with ideas and technologies that we can’t even fathom today.