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Young farmer bucks aging trend

Published on December 19, 2009 3:01AM

Last changed on March 11, 2010 3:49AM

Lynn Ketchum/Oregon State University
Oregon State University student and farmer Nick Moxley adjusts irrigation sprinklers on his organic alfalfa and wheat farm near Bonanza, Ore.

Lynn Ketchum/Oregon State University Oregon State University student and farmer Nick Moxley adjusts irrigation sprinklers on his organic alfalfa and wheat farm near Bonanza, Ore.

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At age 23, Nick Moxley grows his own farming operation


For the Capital Press

BONANZA, Ore. -- After graduating from college, many twenty-somethings don't always head straight into the career field they studied. They backpack across Central America, teach English in Japan, move back in with Mom and Dad, or make espresso until they find a job in their major.

Not Nick Moxley. The 23-year-old from Bonanza graduated in the spring with a bachelor's degree in agricultural business management from Oregon State University. He then drove straight to his nearly 400-acre farm near Klamath Falls in southern Oregon and got to work.

It wasn't much of a change for Moxley. He had been commuting on weekends while he was a full-time student in Corvallis. Most Friday afternoons, Moxley would finish class, grab a cup of coffee, fill up on diesel and drive the approximately 250 miles to Bonanza. He'd take care of routine maintenance on equipment, fix wheel lines, plant crops, plow, mend fences, whatever was needed.

On Sunday night, he'd drive back to campus.

Moxley is somewhat of an anomaly in agriculture because of his age. The average age of principal farm operators is 57, according to the 2007 Census of Agriculture.

He predicts that agriculture is headed to a "scary place" for young farmers.

"It's going to be tougher and tougher to make it," he said. "A person either needs to farm more ground or improve the amount of money made per acre."

That's exactly what Moxley plans to do. Right now, he leases 60 acres of pasture and 330 acres of barley, orchardgrass and organic alfalfa. He sells the alfalfa to dairies and the grass hay mainly to horse owners. He also owns 20 Black Angus, Maine-Anjou and Charolais cows. He has sold some of his calves to 4-H and FFA members. He'd like to buy more cows, do some embryo transfer, pick up some more acreage and increase the yields on his hay operation through fertilizer applications.

After this year he hopes to have his equipment paid off so he can start working on accomplishing these goals.

Clint Sexson, who employed Moxley at OSU's cattle ranch near campus, has confidence in him.

"I can see Nick's operation growing to the point that he'll be one of the bigger farmers in Klamath (County) at his age," said Sexson, who was also his coach when Moxley was on OSU's livestock judging team. "I can also see Nick as being someone who makes sure that ag keeps going in the right direction. Whether he is serving on the Farm Bureau board or with the (Oregon) Cattlemen's (Association), he'll be a driving force for agriculture."

Moxley moved to Bonanza from California with his family in 2003. Several years ago, a family acquaintance contacted Moxley's parents to ask if they were interested in leasing and farming some ground that they had recently purchased. Moxley saw the opportunity to farm his own operation. In the spring of 2006, Moxley had the lease arranged and got an operating loan from Northwest Farm Credit Services through its program for new, young farmers.

"He has leased a pretty good-sized place which most people his age wouldn't have the guts to do," said Ty Kliewer, a rancher in Klamath Falls who knows Moxley. "He is willing to try new things and is usually pretty successful at whatever he takes on."

As Moxley starts this new phase of his agricultural career in these tough economic times, he does have advice for others with similar goals: "Don't be afraid to give it a shot."

Anna Willard is an animal science and fish and wildlife major at Oregon State University.

Info box

Nick Moxley

Age: 23

Occupation: Farmer

Family: Single

Education: Bachelor's degree from Oregon State University in agricultural business management


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