Bryan Searle is a farmer, just like his father, but Searle may not encourage his children to follow in his footsteps.

For many, what used to be a family tradition is becoming a dream.Across the country fewer and fewer people are able to follow in their parents' or grandparents' footsteps and become farmers.

For more than 10 years the number of young people in Idaho and across the nation who are choosing farming as a profession has dropped, according to figures from the U.S. Census Bureau.

In 1978 there were almost 600 farmers in Idaho under the age of 25, but in 1987 there were barely 300.

There were more than 3,500 farmers in Idaho between the ages of 25 and 34 in 1982, but in 1987 there were fewer than 3,000.

In 1978 there were fewer than 3,500 farmers 65 years old or older, but in 1987 there were almost 4,700.

The cost of farming is the biggest obstacle younger people must overcome to continue the family farming tradition, Searle said.

Bryan Ogburn, state chairman of the Farm Bureau's young farmer and rancher committee who farms near Payette, said farms need a lot of capital, and it is difficult for 20-year-olds to raise it.

Paul Patterson, a University of Idaho agriculture economist in Idaho Falls, said more commercial farms are taking the place of family farms and are producing food for domestic consumption and commodities for export.

Searle said, "You have to be big to make it, and that is pushing family farms out."

Modernization of farming equipment has made farming large tracts of land easier, Searle said.

People used to struggle to flood-irrigate 50 acres of land, but pivot irrigation systems now make irrigating hundreds of acres easy.

But modernization has increased equipment costs. In 1974, Ogburn bought a tractor for $20,000. Today the machine costs three times that.

To stay afloat, farmers have been forced to join partnerships.

"Fathers had to become partners," Searle said. "They're tied to so many places, it is impossible for sons to get in."

Searle is lucky.

His father took him and his brothers on as partners. Together they work on the family's 1,400-acre farm near Shelley, growing potatoes, wheat and alfalfa.

"It's a unique situation. We didn't have to come up with a great big sum of money," he said. "We're working side by side. We'll take care of him down the road, (and) he is taking care of us now."

Ogburn said fewer farming opportunities made it difficult for people to get the knowledge and experience they need to be successful.

"You don't go to college to become a farmer," he said.

It also takes more than hard work to get by today, Searle said. Young farmers have to be good managers, too.

"You can work as hard as you want, but if you're not a good manager you're in a bad way," he said.