Young Farmers Ready To 'Make Hay' In Changing Ownership Climate

Though farming is more of a lifestyle than a job and a farmer may never truly retire, many are now looking to at least slow down. The aging farmer is looking to the younger generation to succeed them in the farm operation.

Fortunately, with organizations like 4-H Canada, the Canadian Agricultural Human Resource Council (CAHRC), Canadian Young Farmers' Forum (CYFF) and Canadian Outstanding Young Farmers Program, the up and coming generation is ready to meet the challenge head on.

And as a recent government study suggests, the country's best and brightest will be taking over an industry that they'll have a lot of control over. In other words, because there are fewer farms out there, each business has a larger share of the overall pie.

"There are roughly 74,200 farms in Canada owned by people under 40."

This has been the case over the past couple of decades. In 1991, for instance, there were nearly 280,200 farms in the country, according to Statistics Canada. Ten years later, by 2011, that number dwindled to just over 205,700.

Over the same stretch of time, the percentage of farm owners younger than 40 dipped, falling 75% from 74,159 in 1991 to just over 20,300 by 2011. This translates to about 1 in 10 farms being owned by someone younger than 40 versus approximately 1 in 4 back in the early 1990s.

By region, 55-and-over producers accounted for the majority of farm businesses. However, there were some areas of the country that had more young operators.

Statistics Canada found that 4 years ago, there were 3 provinces where the ownership breakdown between those older and younger than 55 was roughly even, those being Manitoba, Saskatchewan and Quebec. Quebec was the only province where more than half of farm owners were under the age of 55.

Most young farmers own pig farms, though the percentage is down from where it used to be. Most young farmers own pig farms, though the percentage is down from where it used to be.

Young Farmers Still In Swine

Of course, there are many types of farms in Canada, including vegetable, fruit, maple syrup, cattle and chicken, whether for meat or egg-producing. But the one type where younger producers are "hogging" a greater share of the market is in the swine sector.

Nearly 16% of pig farms in 2011 were owned and operated by those younger than 40. Still, that's down significantly from 1991, when it was closer to 40% at 39.6%.

Even though young farmers may not be in the farming sector quite as abundantly as in prior years, this shouldn't suggest that they aren't successful with their endeavors, as the survival rates of these operations have been strong, suggesting that the up and coming generation is living up to the challenge of remaining solvent.

For example, in 1991, when there were roughly 74,200 farms owned by people under 55, more than half - 53% - were still in business 20 years later at just under 39,350, Statistics Canada reported.
This was in contrast to just 27% of farms still in operation for those 55 and over in 2011, down from approximately 105,600 in 1991.

More Farms Changing Hands

According to a recent survey conducted by the Royal Bank of Canada, 1 in 3 farms are likely to change hands before 2018, the majority of which will be given to younger family members.

The transition process isn't always an easy one when you take into account all the things that need to be accounted for to remain afloat. Growing up in the business helps, but the administrative side of the business can be tricky. If you plan on handing off your farm to a family member, let the specialists at FBC be your guide in making the transition process more seamless.

Speak with an FBC farm tax specialist for further assistance.

"I’ve been a Member with FBC since 1962. Initially we were worried about the price, but the representative was very informative and reassuring. We like the home visits and that they’re only a phone call away. To me FBC means secure and friendly service. They provide excellent service with a smile and our questions are always answered. We would recommend FBC to other farmers and business owners."
- Herman Van Wieren, Hensall, ON