SUNBURY -- More than 60 percent of farmers are over the age of 55, and without young farmers to replace them when they retire, the nation's food supply would depend on fewer and fewer people.
"This is an alarming revelation that we have been hearing for several years," said Tim Lesher, a member of the Pennsylvania Farm Bureau's Young Farmer and Rancher Committee and president of the Northumberland County Farm Bureau.
Each year, one farmer feeds more and more people, Lesher said. "And, it is estimated that by the year 2025, we will need to produce 25 percent more food to feed our own nation and the world. If this is the case, where will we be by 2050?"
Compound that with the fact that the number of youths entering the production agricultural work force is small.
Maybe that's why U.S. Department of Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack recently called for 100,000 new farmers within the next few years, and Congress has responded with proposals that would provide young farmers with improved access to USDA support and loan programs.
One beginning farmer is Geena Martyn, 24, from the Beaver Springs area.
As a teen, she said Friday, all she wanted to do was leave her family's farm and find a career that didn't involve cows. But she changed her mind after spending years in dead-end jobs at a restaurant.
"In those jobs I'm just a number, just a time-clock puncher," Martyn said. "But now I'm doing what I love to do. If I'm having a rough day or I'm a little sad because the sun's not shining or my tractor's broken, I can always go out and be by the cattle. That makes me feel better."