NEW MEXICO (KRQE) – It’s an alarming national trend; farmers are getting older, and their kids are choosing not to take over the family business. In New Mexico, there are nearly three times as many ranchers and farmers 65 and older than there are 35 and under. So, who will take over that critical work?

“To me, it’s the only lifestyle there is…I wouldn’t change a thing about this lifestyle,” said Rivers Bend Ranch owner, Ron Baca. He is a cattle rancher in Aztec, New Mexico. Though he loves his job, the line of work comes with its challenges.

“It’s a tough life, it’s a life that you have to love so that’s why we do it. Sometimes we look for other means of income to keep things going because we don’t want to lose the farm or ranch,” said Baca.

Baca said the barriers include high taxes and fuel prices. With farmers and ranchers getting only about eight cents on the dollar for their product. That’s one of the reasons he thinks fewer people are getting into the industry. Baca, like many others, doesn’t know the fate of his ranch.

According to the American Farm Bureau Federation, farmers and ranchers make up less than 2% of the US population, and that number is dwindling.

Nationwide, farmers and ranchers are getting older. Here in New Mexico, the average age is 60 years old, according to the New Mexico Department of Agriculture.

“That’s something that we’re struggling with is trying to get more younger people involved,” said chairman of the New Mexican Farm and Livestock Bureau’s Young Farmers and Ranchers Program, Russell Johnson.

According to Johnson, there aren’t enough young people entering the industry. His program’s goal is to help those who are pursuing farm and ranch careers connect with mentors and gain experience.

Johnson added, “Not only do we offer these educational opportunities, but we also offer an opportunity to network with other farmers and ranchers.”

Another program in New Mexico strives to educate students about where food comes from. They hope to inspire the next generation of farmers.

“Once they have this better understanding of agriculture, how things grow, how things work, whether it’s with plants such as crops or animals considering livestock animals, these kids’ minds just light up,” said the program coordinator for New Mexico Ag in the Classroom, Britney Lardner.

Additionally, each year New Mexico Department of Agriculture hosts “Agrifuture,” a conference aimed at inspiring the next generation of farmers. In 2019, the state’s Agricultural Workforce Development Act provided funding for ranchers and farms to hire interns.