Tuesday, March 8, 2011

young generation of farmers emerges

“People want to connect more than they can at their grocery store,” Ms. Jones said. “We had a couple who came down from Portland and asked if they could collect their own eggs. We said, ‘O.K., sure.’ They want to trust their producer, because there’s so little trust in food these days.”

Garry Stephenson, coordinator of the Small Farms Program at Oregon State University, said he had not seen so much interest among young people in decades. “It’s kind of exciting,” Mr. Stephenson said. “They’re young, they’re energetic and idealist, and they’re willing to make the sacrifices.”

Though the number of young farmers is increasing, the average age of farmers nationwide continues to creep toward 60, according to the 2007 Census of Agriculture. That census, administered by the Department of Agriculture, found that farmers over 55 own more than half of the country’s farmland.

From a Fantastic NY Times piece on young farmers!


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dang Right! I'm lucky in that I married into a farming family so I can take a few shortcuts to the learning curve. (but I will say that I've learned a good deal bit on my own too). I've felt like a weirdo for awhile - it wasn't popular for an 18 yr old suburban kid to decide that they wanted to live on a farm and my friends thought I was plain nuts! Now I see more and more young people becoming interested in farming or even just where their food/products come from!

March 8, 2011 at 11:42 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanks for the article link! I've been really enjoying the rumblings of this agrevoltuion that seems to be going on. For once in my life I feel like I'm in on the start of something wonderful.

March 8, 2011 at 11:56 AM  
Blogger Kitchen Mama said...

Isn't it nice to have confirmation of your own choices in life? If the NY Times says it, it must be so, right? :-)

There is so much scepticism out there about changing the way our culture works. How did it become so revolutionary or reactionary to want to have a real connection with one's food, with the earth, to want to step outside of a system of growing money in favor of growing food and real human connections?

March 8, 2011 at 11:56 AM  
Blogger Unknown said...

That is encouraging. I think more and more people are concerned with how food is produced and wants to make sure they have the best that can be grown by doing it themselves.

March 8, 2011 at 12:01 PM  
Blogger Tara said...

"Though the number of young farmers is increasing, the average age of farmers nationwide continues to creep toward 60, according to the 2007 Census of Agriculture."

I suspect this might be because today's young farmers are mostly operating on homesteads and microfarms, and doing largely small scale and subsistence work. There are tons of people who are technically "farming" that wouldn't necessarily be counted as a farmer on a census. I have to wonder how much that skews the average age to the high side?

March 8, 2011 at 12:34 PM  
Blogger Tara said...

Heh..."largely small" sounds funny, doesn't it? :)

March 8, 2011 at 12:35 PM  
Blogger Charles said...

Idealist is right, anyone who attempts to make it on a small farm knows that being a small farmer is an all consuming life style and success is impossible.

March 8, 2011 at 1:00 PM  
Blogger Paula said...

I'm not so sure that you're right, Charles. Maybe the way that agriculture is set up currently, you'd have a point.

I'm encouraged to see that it's largely young people choosing to become farmers, because I think it speaks volumes about how we're changing our attitudes about food in this country. If it were scores of middle aged or older folks flocking to farming, I'd be concerned. But I think the fact that it's younger folks doing it means that their generation is more interested in eating this way- they'll be the ones creating an increasing market for locally produced food.

The other reason I think this will work is that the way that food is produced in this country has to change. While we're complaining about the price of gas going up at the pump, most people don't realize just how much of that precious foreign oil goes into growing and transporting food in this country. Even when things settle down in the Middle East, we still know that oil is a terribly finite resource, and some day it's going to be more expensive than it's worth to get it out of the ground, refined, and shipped elsewhere. So local, sustainable agriculture has to be the way of the future, and it's young farmers and young consumers that will make that happen.

What we all need to realize is that the time of cheap food is rapidly coming to an end. You may as well start supporting local farmers and food producers now. I've heard some people referring to this current food revolution as being the latest fad, but I don't think so. I think it's here to stay, and I'm very glad about that.

March 8, 2011 at 1:57 PM  
Blogger RabbleRoost said...

If success is happiness as some people say, then you can be a successful farmer with a couple pots of basil in your apartment's kitchen windowsill.

March 8, 2011 at 3:38 PM  
Blogger doglady said...

I am seeing more and more people in my age group,which is at least AARP eligible, concerned about what is being passed off as food these days. We are getting small flocks of chickens, planting gardens, either growing our own or finding properly grown beef, chicken,turkeys and pork. We pay the premium price for raw milk. Self sufficiency is the goal. The talk at parties is often about composting or butchering chickens rather than the stock market or latest town council decision. It is a natural evolution for us. We remember the way it used to be before factory farming and are going back there.
So we have the young adults and the old adults who are concerned about their food and are doing something about it. How do we get those in the middle on board?

March 8, 2011 at 3:58 PM  
Blogger Tara said...

@Doglady - I'm 39, and most of the people who buy from me are somewhere close to my age. I think we're certainly late to the party, but we're coming along!

March 8, 2011 at 4:05 PM  
Blogger doglady said...

Glad to hear it Tara. I'll bet you're doing your part to spread the word about self sufficiency and good food. Yesterday, at the biggest chain grocery store in Maine, I counted 15 different flavors and brands of reheatable waffles. Those things are expensive low nutrition high calorie items. We need a movement to get home economics back into our schools so young people learn they don't need to be slaves to the food industry.

March 8, 2011 at 5:44 PM  
Blogger Charles said...

My family are small farmers, in the river bottoms of Arkansas, and have been at it since the 1700's, it is one thing to be concerned about the quality of food and something can be done about it if you want to pay the price. But, farming to make a living is, especially for one person, nearly impossible. No one can produce pork and sell it at Wal-Mart cheaper than Tyson Foods, the same thing goes for chicken and eggs. Milk a cow, twice a day, every day if you want to experience what I am talking about firsthand.

March 8, 2011 at 5:57 PM  
Blogger junk gypsy said...

i love this! and i loooooove your CHiCK DAYS book! it's guiding us through our first feathered flock! :)XOOXXOXX from texas 2 U!

March 8, 2011 at 6:17 PM  
Blogger Charles said...

Here is a challenge, raise a milk cow, a Brown Swiss will do, build a barn for her to live in, grow her grain, milk her, raise some chickens, grow their grain, build them a coop to live in, plant some ribbon cane, harvest it and make your sugar, cut some wood with a cross cut and split it with a double bitted axe. Now using the ingredients you produced bake a pound cake.

My Aunt Bessie Ethel and my Uncle Boss did it while raising 13 kids on a dirt farm on the Ouachita river.

Contact me when you get the pound cake out of the oven and I will tell you what the prize is and send it to you.

March 8, 2011 at 6:22 PM  
Blogger DarcC said...

Thanks for that link. I'm proud to count myself among that group. I have such plans for bringing this old place back to production!

March 8, 2011 at 8:09 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I've been "farming" our 5 acres for years, but don't have enough flat ground to grow my own feed or wheat. However, my big garden, pigs, chickens and the homesteading stuff suit me fine. A lot of people want to come out and visit our place, but there still aren't a lot of young adults who want to do the work for the end result. (I'm 47)

March 8, 2011 at 10:15 PM  
Blogger Burk said...

Hey Jenna, Thanks for the article. After reading it I looked at "The Grange". It is actually a National Fraternal Order for Farmers. There is actually a historic Grange Building in West Hebron.

March 9, 2011 at 7:02 AM  
Blogger treehuggers kitchen said...

I agree with what Tara said about small scale homesteaders not being classified as farmers. I think we're onto something big. It makes me happy.

March 9, 2011 at 9:14 AM  
Blogger Tara said...

@Charles, I think you've hit the nail on the head without realizing it. We don't *want* to sell to Walmart, or compete with Tyson. I sell my product at a premium (which it's worth) directly to individuals who are happy to pay it. I'll be the first to admit that I don't make a living* at it, but I also haven't put in the effort yet to do it full time. I do make enough to sustain the operation and allow us to live solely on my husband's salary, and that's doing extremely small scale and part time production (and yes, I have dairy animals and milk every day). I'm sorry if your experience hasn't been so good, but I'm not really sure what you're suggesting we all do? Give up now because it's just too hard?
* the phrase "making a living" is HIGHLY subjective. My comfortable living might be barely getting by to you.

March 9, 2011 at 2:56 PM  

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