Callaway Youth Expo draws much needed young farmers

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AUXVASSE -The average age of cattle-showers at the Callaway Youth Expo Friday was 10 years old, a stark contrast from the average 58-year-old American farmer.

Callaway County focused on agriculture’s youth over the course of its five-day expo, but the trend of an aging farming population persists.

Despite the trophies and family traditions, some of the kids participating won't choose a career of farming.

Grant Norfleet is 14 and in his sixth year of showing animals. His dad and grandparents showed animals, but he’s not sold on farming yet.

“I’m thinking about doing theater or psychology or anything,” Grant said.

Cheyenne Hunt has shown animals for 13 years. Both her mom and dad showed cattle when they were young. She’s not a farmer, but instead became a preschool teacher.

Other families in Callaway County also experience kids leaving farming for something else.

Scott Starky can date his family’s farming roots back 200 years but says both his son and daughter haven’t committed to the tradition.

“My son doesn’t want to farm, but hopefully my daughter will stick around in the area,” Starky said.

According to the United States Department of Agriculture, the US is exporting more agricultural goods than it imports, but there are only 636 reported farmers under the age of 25 in Missouri. There are almost 22,000 full-time degree-seekers in the state.

It’s also difficult to retain new farmers. According to US Census of Agriculture, there was a 23 percent decrease from 2007 to 2012 of farmers who had been operating a farm for less than five years.

Farmers may be aging, and replacing them may be difficult, but in Callaway County, an annual expo brings together agriculture enthusiasts of all ages and gives hope for the future of farming.