Youth unemployment and underemployment are serious problems in most countries, and often more severe in rural than in urban areas. Small-scale agriculture is the developing world's single biggest source of employment, and with the necessary support it can offer a sustainable and productive alternative to the expansion of large-scale, capital-intensive, labour-displacing corporate farming. This, however, assumes a generation of young rural men and women who want to be small farmers, while mounting evidence suggests that young people are uninterested in farming or in rural futures. The emerging field of youth studies can help us understand young people's turn away from farming, pointing to: the deskilling of rural youth, and the downgrading of farming and rural life; the chronic neglect of small-scale agriculture and rural infrastructure; and the problems that young rural people increasingly have, even if they want to become farmers, in getting access to land while still young. © 2012 The Author. IDS Bulletin