Finding the next generation of NC farmers becoming more difficult

Wake County News

RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) – Agriculture may be a $76 billion industry in North Carolina, but finding people to man farms is becoming more challenging.

Carrying on the family farm is a commitment the next generation may be reluctant to take on.

On a day that was already sweltering by mid-morning, Tim Kuhls was unloading 400 bushes of barley that weighs about 48 pounds a bushel.

That barley is going to make a lot of beer. It’s a plant that’s relatively new to Perry Farms, which is continuing into its seventh generation. Kuhls married into the family and is working to keep it going.

To do that, he’s listening carefully to what consumers want.

“They want to get back to that where you develop flavors associated with a location like Raleigh. Such a big food town and such a craft brew scene here in North Carolina, you know it’s something we’re really tapping into here in North Carolina,” Khuls said. 

There’s no question that the demand for locally grown food is there. But, more and more family farms are finding that the heir apparent isn’t interested in farming. Local farmers are also having to weigh whether it makes more financial sense to just sell to a developer. 

Dr. Emily Miller with Wake County Cooperative Extension said farmers are constantly approached about selling.

“We’re fighting with small acreage, competition, developers coming in and not as many resources as some of these bigger farms have,” Khuls said. 

On its 1,200 acres in Wake County, Perry Farms also grows tobacco, soybeans, and wheat. That may sound traditional, but the approach, technique, and technology are changing, which is another reason the younger generation could be so helpful.

“Young people are very innovative. They’re very creative, and just because mom and dad are used to growing traditional row crops doesn’t mean you have to,” Dr. Miller said. 

Tim Kuhls started off working in the business but soon realized his passion was somewhere else.

“If they’re interested in working outdoors and hard working with their hands, and mechanical work and the technology that comes into increasing agriculture production in our area, it’s definitely an interesting market for people to get into,” Kuhls said.

Click here for more information on the farming industry in North Carolina. Click here for more data on the nationwide industry.

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