Demographics
8:00 pm
Sun January 5, 2014

Texas Panhandle: How are you going to keep them down on the farm?

Mike Skinner on Dec. 26, 2013 outside the farmhouse on the land five miles east of Spearman that he sold last spring. Three generations of his family had farmed the land.
Credit Stephen Spillman / The Texas Tribune

The only livestock Mike Skinner has these days are birds in a cage.  Skinner sold the family farm last spring.  Land he was once farmed, as did his brother, his parents, and his grandparents reported the Texas Tribune

“My grandfather told me that the only way to stop farming is to die,” Skinner, 67, said.

Family members died, he has no children, and farming feels unpredictable and lonely.  The place, outside Spearman, that holds decades of memories now belongs to someone else.

Skinner is like a growing number of Texans who are leaving the land because of opportunities in urban areas, a spike in land prices and concerns about  risky weather patterns fueled by a blockbuster drought that continues to plague much of the state. The agricultural workforce is also aging.

“A lot of these guys, their kids have chosen not to come back and farm, and so they don’t really have anybody to leave the land to,” said DeDe Jones, an economist at Texas A&M AgriLife Research and Extension Center at Amarillo. 

Texas is growing, rapidly overall, but 96 counties lost population in 2013.  Most of the loss was in the agricultural areas in the west and Panhandle according to the Office of the State Demographer.

The rest of the story from the Texas Tribune can be found here.