Drawing on life history interviews conducted in Indian and Indonesian study sites, we tease out the social production of aspirations in the process of becoming a farmer. We show the power of a doxic logic in which schooling is regarded as the pathway out of farming, towards a future of non-manual, salaried employment. Among rural youth this doxic logic produces broadly defined aspiration such as ‘completing education’, and ‘getting a job’. In the absence of clear pathways to realise such aspirations, young people seek to keep options open. Yet, the scope for doing so changes in relation to key life events such as ending school, migration and marriage and does so in distinctly gendered ways. We conclude proposing that young people’s delayed entrance into farming, among other things, must be understood as an attempt to keep open those futures that are considered closed by an early entry into full-time farming.