Piscataquis, Waldo counties show strongest growth in young farmers in 2012 census

While the average age of Maine farmers has risen since 1997, Maine ranked fourth in the nation for the pace at which young farmers are starting to work the land.

Preliminary data from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s 2012 census revealed that age trend among Maine farmers. That data was released at the county level earlier this month, showing that out of Maine’s 16 counties, 10 had the number of farmers between the age of 25 to 34 rise in 2012, up from 2007, the year of the previous survey.

The map below shows percent change in primary farm operators by age group from the previous five-year survey. That is, viewing 2012, you’ll see how farmers in that age group changed from 2007. Looking at 2007 will show change from 2002, and so on:

The latest data shows Waldo County continued to have a sharp increase in the number of young farmers. There, the number of young primary farm operators farmers rose by 52 farmers from 2007, up from just two a decade ago.

Piscataquis County showed the strongest growth after declining by five primary farm operators in 2007, from 2002. That county gained 29 farmers between 2007 and 2012, making a total of 34 farmers between the ages of 25 to 34.

While farm operators in the youngest census age category increased, the number of farmers in the second- and third-youngest age ranges declined from 1997 to 2012:

And no county showed a decline in the average age of farmers:

The age data is just the tip of the iceberg for the latest agriculture census, where I’ll be snooping around for other insights. Find what county-level data is available for Maine at the USDA’s website.

Darren Fishell

About Darren Fishell

Darren is a Portland-based reporter for the Bangor Daily News writing about the Maine economy and business. He's interested in putting economic data in context and finding the stories behind the numbers.