Agri-Musings: The Effects of Retirement

In 1975, I wrote a high school paper on population dynamics. Who knew what an impact that paper would have on my life? From that point on, I looked at everything though the lens of demographics. After I married, my husband and I made financial, family, and work decisions based on how we thought society would be shaped by the age distribution of our population.

Much of what we predicted is coming to pass. Globally, there are competing interests for natural resources. Nationally, the impacts of population growth and increasing urbanization are changing our landscape and the fabric of our society. And the impact of aging baby boomers retiring, en masse, is changing the job market, health care, financial markets, volunteerism, tourism, and how society looks at careers and aging.

In California, rapid retirement of baby boomers will be felt acutely because of over-committed pension funds, the impacts of a rapid “brain drain”, and high-levels of California emigration among retirees.

The Public Policy Institute of California (PPCI) Reports:

  • Retirees grew from 3.8 million in 2008 to 5.2 million in 2018 (38% increase).
  • Compare this 38% increase in retirees to the 8% population growth.
  • Retirees were, on the average well-educated. From 2008 to 2018, the education levels of retirees were:
    • ~700,000 people with college degrees
    • ~250,000 people with associate degrees
    • ~ 300,000 people with high school education
  • There are more than 70,000 new retirees with bachelor’s degree each year for the last decade.
  • Only 55,000 new bachelor’s degrees are awarded by the entire University of California system each year.
  • California could see a shortfall of college graduates of 1.1 million by 2030.
  • PPIC claims that the state is increasing funding for increased enrollment, graduation rates, and degrees awarded, but provides no substantiation for these claims.

Johnson, Hans. Many of California’s Highly Educated Workers are Retiring. Public Policy Institute of California. (January 24, 2019)

Agri-Stats: Aging Agricultural Communities

In the December 2014 edition of Rangelands, researchers explored demographic trends of farm and ranch operators concentrating on Wyoming.

Rangelands reported the project findings:

  • Census records indicate that Wyoming’s agricultural community is aging.
  • There are risks associated with loss of local knowledge, loss of tradition and loss of investment that stem from a deep-rooted sense of place.
  • Fundamental challenges exist to incentivize young agriculturalists to replace those in retirement age.
  • Solutions? Finding young farmers and ranchers might be accomplished through shifts in education, public policy, economic incentives, or through targeted cultivation of personal connections to the land.

Growing Produce summarized this project: “… the authors forecast a bleak farming future: no operators younger than 35 by 2033 and an average age of 60 by 2050. Even if their children and grandchildren show interest in agriculture, farmers often cannot afford to keep their land and equipment. They “retire” and sell — often to residential or commercial developers. The authors state that the trends in Wyoming are occurring throughout the U.S.”

Glick, Henry B. et al. Wyoming’s Aging Agricultural Landscape: Demographic Trends among Farm And Ranch Operators, 1920-2007. Rangelands. Volume 35. Issue 6. December 2014. Pages 7-14.

Agri-Stats: Demographics

There’s a national shortage of young agricultural professionals.

A 2014 Report by the STEM Food and Ag Council calls for industries and universities to work together to address the gap.


  • Twenty-five percent of [agricultural] workers are the age of 55 or older, which means job opportunities will grow through workforce attrition.
  • Analysis projects a 4.9% growth in employment opportunities in the next five years, adding 33,100 new jobs in advanced agriculture fields.

The report, released at the World Food Prize Borlaug Dialogue, includes a detailed analysis of enrollment and workforce trends in six agriculture fields:

  • Agricultural Business and Management,
  • Agriculture Mechanization and Engineering,
  • Animal Sciences,
  • Plant and Soil Science,
  • Food Science and Technology, and
  • Other life sciences.

The STEM Food & Ag Council report found that career opportunities in the food and agriculture industries for the next generation will be significant

STEM Annual Report, Food Ag Council (2014)

Reposted from October 23, 2014, Facebook post

In 2012, The USDA Stats came to the same conclusions: 

  • Only 22% of all farmers in the U.S. are “beginning farmers” (farming for < 10 years)
  • Only 6% of farmers are under the age of 35
  • 33% of farmers are 65 or older

In 2012, the U.S. Census of Ag Reported an overall decrease in the number of farms: 

  • The U.S. had 2.1 million farms.
  • A decrease in 4.3 % from the 2007 Census.
  • There is an overall downward trend in mid-sized farms, while the smallest and largest-size farms held steady.
  • Between 2007 and 2012, the amount of land in U.S. farms declined from 922 million acres to 915 million. (<1%).