Local farms are common across the Bluegrass, but it’s young farmers who are the ones growing and making a difference in the future of farming.
“I’ve grown up on this farm all my life,” says Katie Cecil, Cecil Farms Produce farmer.
For 32-year-old Katie Cecil, she comes from a long line of farmers.
“I remember when I first asked my dad if I could go to work with him,” says Cecil. “I was seven. I couldn’t reach the clutch, but I could steer the steering wheel.”
Her entire life she’s worked at Cecil Farms Produce-her family’s farm in Owensboro.
“I would be in the squash field with our crew picking squash each morning,” says Cecil. “We’d move over to the packing shed in the afternoons and pack watermelons to ship off. There are all kinds of tasks. There still are. Everyday is completely different.”
According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, young farmers like Cecil are increasing across Kentucky. In the that 2017 census, there has been a 30 percent increase of young farmers since 2012. Nearly 13,000 of them are 34-years-old and younger.
“You’re not wrong to say a lot of farmers are older and aging out, so it is very encouraging to see people my age and younger stepping in to this role and keeping everything that’s going so well and moving forward,” says Cecil.
USDA officials tell 44News many of the younger farmers are taking over the roles of the older farmers who are retiring or taking less active roles. They also say many young producers want to increase food production by appealing to consumers like wineries, grass-fed, organic food, hemp, and farmers markets.
“There’s certainly a disconnect with my generation and the future generation to farm work and I’m very fortunate to know what it’s like because it requires a lot that people don’t understand,” says Cecil.
The USDA recorded 139 young farmers in 2017 throughout Daviess County compared to only 40 in 2012. The other largest growth was in Hopkins County with 104 farmers compared to only 38 in 2012.
For those farmers, the hope is to carry the agricultural business into the years to come.
“It gives me the opportunity to reach the younger consumer through my family’s business,” says Cecil.
Cecil says she hopes to pass her knowledge onto the future generation. There is a program at Cecil Farms Produce for children ages seven to 18 that teaches them about the skills of farming.