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Spring 2005 Vol. 49, Number 1

Farming in the 21st century: A modern business in a modern world

Today’s farmers and ranchers are jacks-of-all-trades. They combine science, technology, business savvy—and, of course, knowledge of plants and animals—to provide the world with food and fiber. Find out which tools are essential for successful farming today.

In the 21st century, farmers and ranchers are likely to know as much, or more, about world events as they do about the pests or bacteria that are eating their crops or affecting their cattle. Moreover, today’s farmers often incorporate the latest breakthroughs in science and technology into their farming practices. Modern farmers also are more likely than farmers in the past to be female, Hispanic, and older than the average worker. (See the box on page 22.) 

But in many ways, 21st-century farmers are not so different from the farmers who preceded them. They are hardworking, independent caretakers of land and animals—and jacks-of-all-trades. Farmers enjoy having variety in their work, providing the world with food and fiber, and being their own bosses.

Successful farming in the 21st century requires knowledge not only of the latest techniques for raising crops and farm animals but also of how to operate a successful business. This article describes modern-day farmers and ranchers, those who own or lease their own farms and who grow crops and raise animals for a variety of purposes. It also examines how the occupation as a whole is changing and how farmers and other agricultural workers can prepare for the future. Sources of more information are provided at the end of the article.

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U.S. Department of Labor
Bureau of Labor Statistics

Last Updated: September 9, 2005