Dispelling myths about NZ farmers

Dispelling myths about NZ farmers
 A good note to finish 2008 on, with research suggesting farmers may not be as old as they think. Research of census data by Lincoln University rural sociologist John Fairweather has put the average age of farmers and their staff at 44 reports Business Day.
It is a far cry from the usually quoted average age of 58. ``That could be a rural myth,'' Dr Fairweather said yesterday. ``There are some imperfections with surveying. Perhaps older people tend to reply to surveys in larger numbers than younger people.'' He and a student followed census data going back to 1991 and after allowing for changes in the method of classifying farmers found that the average age of farmers and farm workers had gradually risen. Dr Fairweather's previous research involving farmers alone showed a fall in the average age from 1971 to 1981 to 41.9 years as the number of farmers rose and then a rise after restructuring in the mid-80s. By 1991 the average age was 43.4.  Using the 2006 census data, which included farm staff, the average was now 44. Dairying's average age was 40, in livestock and cropping it was 46 and in horticulture it was between 43 and 44. However, he still has questions about the accuracy of the data and is reluctant to give 44 as a definitive answer. ``Are all these people really farmers? Do some lifestylers who have just a few sheep or cattle for example, regard themselves as farmers when they are not? More work is needed on this.''

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