Southwestern Wisconsin, the region served by the Southwestern Wisconsin Community Action Program (SWCAP), like other rural areas of Wisconsin and of the Midwest, is experiencing a dramatic shift in its demographic profile. No matter where one looks in terms of census data, community planning and/or economic development, size of school systems, church attendance, etc., the realities of the shift hit home. What one sees is the following:
- The overall population will not grow or will actually decline. The current population for the five counties served by SWCAP (Grant, Green, Iowa, Lafayette and Richland) is 148,090 and is expected to grow to 158,485 by 2030 – or only a 7% increase overall. In some counties, the overall population is expected to drop.
- The population of retirement age is expected to grow from 25,235 in 2015 to 38,820 in 2030, or an increase of 58%. The population is projected to get much older.
- The total school enrollment in CESA 3 for the region dropped from 23,026 in 2001 to 19,554 in 2014, or a 15% drop – with some communities experiencing a more dramatic drop in enrolled children.
- The average age of farmers in 1992 was 50 years of age. In 2012, it was 57 years of age. Recently, in Wisconsin, it was calculated at 63 years of age. As these farmers begin to ratchet down and approach retirement age – or the age where they cannot be as physically active working on the farm – the transition to younger farmers or farm workers will be a crucial issue.