While the age of a typical North Carolina farmer continues to climb, Ethan Malpass of Delco is bucking the trend.
At 25 years old, Malpass is more than three decades younger than an average farmer, according to the recent U.S. Department of Agriculture census, which puts the average age of North Carolina farmers at nearly 59.
Malpass said he never really considered another way to make a living. After all, his family's connection with agriculture can be traced back to his great-great-grandfather, who set-up a farm in eastern Columbus County after the Civil War.
"It kind of gives you a feeling of a heritage," Malpass said.
Ethan's father, Calvin, 62, started farming on his own more than four decades ago with only 25 acres. Now the two men harvest a combined 2,100 acres.
Farms are trending larger across the state and nation, as slim profit margins force growers to plant more acres.
Operating at such a large scale, prevents many would-be farmers from entering the field, explains Dalton Dockery, director of Columbus County Cooperative Extension.
"I don't want to say it's impossible, but it's hard for a young man or young woman to come into farming with absolutely nothing," Dockery said. "They've got to purchase their land. They've got to purchase their equipment."
While the Malpasses work closely together, they operate their farms as separate entities. Even so, Ethan acknowledges the business would be a lot tougher without his dad – even if they don't always see eye to eye.
"Sometimes we have a little bit of disagreement on stuff, but it usually works out good," Ethan said.
"It's been great because as I've gotten older, I do more pick-up work and office work," Calvin explained. "So he's more of my tractor man now, and I'm more of a paper man."
Even though the older Malpass has his succession plan firmly established, he's not bowing out anytime soon.
Asked how much longer he intends to farm, Calvin chuckled and said, "25 more years ought to put me at 87. That's about my life span. In a Malpass family, that's about as long as they can make it."
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