FEATURE8 June 2020

Handing over the reins

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Features Impact North America

With an ageing population and grain prices uncertain, US farms face a recruitment crisis, relying on retirees and volunteers. Bamm’s Peter Lane reports.

Handing over the reins

“The intern’s going to get the farm. She just doesn’t know it yet.”

I’m speaking to Kyle, a Vietnam ‘vet’ turned Texan rancher, at his homestead, Falster Farm in Winnsboro, Texas. We’ve been talking for about an hour. The conversation is sporadically interrupted by his radio chatter with the ‘intern’, Elizabeth:

“The bull’s gone got loose.”
“It’s already been sold.”
“I’ll look in the backfield.”

Over the course of the day, the search unfolds. I feel like I’m in an episode of The Archers.

I’m travelling across the midwest of America conducting ethnographies of agribusinesses on behalf of multinational oil company Shell. On every farm I visit, there is one prevalent theme.

Agriculture in America faces a recruitment crisis. In a country best known for its two coastal cities, you could be forgiven for not knowing that two-fifths of America is farmland. It is the largest mass of fertile, tillable land on the planet, and it divides into millions of holdings, farms and ranches, 95% of which are family-run ...