A survey conducted by the Coalition to Support Iowa’s Farmers (CSIF) at the 95th Iowa FFA Leadership Conference found that 65% of students would like to farm in the future but have concerns about rising input costs. Of the 251 members who completed the survey, nearly 60% live and/or work on a farm.

FFA is dedicated to the potential for career success of its members, as stated in the organization’s mission statement. Iowa FFA members prove this to be true, with 96% of respondents planning to continue their education after completing high school. Additionally, 85% plan to farm or work in an ag-related field.

Emma Wiebold, a sophomore from Boone High School, lives on her family’s dairy goat farm. She plans to obtain a bachelor’s degree and pursue veterinary medicine. 

“I’ve raised dairy goats and have gotten to teach others about them. Agriculture can be fun and is a great learning environment. I look forward to becoming a veterinarian and raising livestock in the future,” she said.

Start-up costs

Nearly 40% of respondents in­dicated that high start-up costs are a primary obstacle to new and beginning farmers. 

“One thing that worries me is the rising costs of land,” said Murray High School Senior Jacob Fuller. “The rising costs of farm ground makes it so that a young farmer cannot afford to get started in farming. Over the last 10 years in our area, land prices have doubled, and it makes me wonder if they will double again in another 10 years.” 

Fuller lives and works on his family’s 1,400-acre farm near Osceola, which includes a row crop and cow/calf operation. He plans to return to the farm to grow his herd and begin his own row crop operation. 

“There needs to be some change or there won’t be enough young farmers returning in the next 20-30 years,” he added.

Positive outlook

Despite the challenges faced by young farmers, 92% have a “positive” or “very positive” outlook toward the future of Iowa agriculture. Seventy-eight percent of students plan to live and work in Iowa.

Meghan Klemme, a senior at Easton Valley High School, is eager for the future of Iowa agriculture. The second oldest of four daughters, Klemme lives and works on her family’s row crop farm and beef operation. Her plans include educating future generations and staying near the family farm.

“After college, I plan to become an agricultural teacher to share my knowledge about agriculture. What better way to do it than through the youth. They are the future of agriculture, and it’s very important that they understand what it entails.”