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Facing the challenge of keeping young people in agriculture

Youth goat show
(KEVN/KOTA)
Published: Feb. 4, 2022 at 6:51 PM MST
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There’s no question that the agriculture industry is critical to the country. But the Bureau of Labor Statistics says that workers in animal production are the fourth oldest of any industry in the country.

So how do you get young people interested in agriculture and how do you get them to stay in the industry? There was an enthusiastic group Friday at the youth goat show at the Black Hills Stock Show and Rodeo. But keeping them can be a challenge these days with so many things going on.

Marty Michalek of Chamberlain says, “I think everything else is the challenge. There’s just a tremendous amount of distractions. Kids have more choices, more things to do. Things are getting very specialized. It’s hard to have a kid who can be good on several fronts, academically, athletically, involved in showing livestock, involved in raising livestock. There’s just a lot of different options they have, different opportunities available.” Kristin Assman of Winner says, “It is a chore. It is something they have to do every day to keep up with it. So that’s always challenging.”

While keeping the next generation involved in agriculture can be a challenge, both generations agree that getting that done is important.

Colton Michalek says, “I think if you can keep young people in the ag industry, it would be very helpful for the future because if you’ve got your farmers to keep growing plants when you’re older, you can have food to eat when you get older.” Marty Michalek says, “Extremely important to keep them going in agriculture. They’re the future. They’re the ones who are going to be doing this 10, 15, 20 years down the road. We need to do everything we can to show that there is opportunities in production agriculture for these kids to be involved with and make a meaningful career out of.”

Colton says he likes working with animals and likes that there’s a different challenge every day. But he worries that there’s not enough people to keep doing it.