Winding down a successful career and making time for hobbies, community and family are what most young people think of when imagining life at 60.

That's not the reality for most of America's farmers and ranchers, though. Many farmers continue to work well into their 70s. The average age of a farm operator in the United States today is 55 — and in New Mexico, it is over 57, the highest in the country.

There's nothing wrong with doing what you love late into life, but many stay active for a different reason: There is no one to take over the farm.

Today, America has three farm operators over age 65 for every one under age 35. Unless we recruit and retain new farmers, we will lose farmland and the contributions these operations make to our local economies.

In fact, these changes are already transforming some of our rural communities.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture and the National FFA Organization, also known as Future Farmers of America, share a crucial mission: cultivating a new generation of farmers and ranchers.

Our diverse agricultural industry has a place for young people of all backgrounds and interests. For example, the growing demand for locally and regionally produced food - now a multibillion-dollar industry — provides opportunities for young farmers, ranchers and cutting-edge food business entrepreneurs.

USDA is strengthening these opportunities with the Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food management initiative. The initiative helps farmers get started at a local or regional scale, a less capital-intensive way to start than growing for commodity markets.