With the average age of farmers in our country around 55 to 60, there is a serious question of who will be growing our food in the future as our aging farmers retire or pass on. It seems large-scale, commercial farming holds little interest for upcoming generations, so even in “farming families” the children are not returning to the farm after education as they had in the past.
Behold the new generation of young farmers. True enough, they are not interested in large-scale commercial “factory” farming. They are highly educated, interested in health and environment, and see not only the need – and the opportunity – for small-scale farming, but feel the pull to get personally involved and heed that call. Some are returning to farming or gardening roots, others come to it through health, science, or just feel the pull. By working on smaller, more local farms, they are able to focus on organics and natural methods while learning and growing themselves.
Part of what makes small-scale farming possible is CSA’s. CSA stands for Community-Supported Agriculture, and it is just that: community members purchase a share of the upcoming season’s crops, sort of like purchasing a subscription for fresh herbs and vegetables. Their advance money aids the small farm in purchasing the seed, supplies and labor they need for the season, therefore ensuring that it happens at all. It’s a circle of community support and trust that sheds new possibilities on the future of farming.
These new farmers are not only young and educated; they are passionate about bodily health and nutrition, soil and water health and environmental stewardship. They visit and perhaps even intern or apprentice at small farms run by experienced organic gardeners. They’re open to trying or developing new methods while learning and returning to proven methods from previous generations. They’ve created a community of sharing and learning, eager and willing to pass along the knowledge to others wishing to help out or perhaps start their very own small-scale organic farms.
For more information:
- GROW! movie – a documentary about the new young farmer
- National Young Farmers’ Coalition
- New York Times: In New Food Culture, a Young Generation of Farmers Emerges
- Jenny Jack Sun Farm
- Serenbe Farms
- Crop Rotation in the home garden; an article on the basics
- Crop Rotation in the home garden; this very good article from Mother Earth News provides the basics and beyond
- Joe’s Blog Post: Young Farmers; Real-Life Superheroes
- Nathan’s Recipe: Braised Leeks with Pan Seared Tilapia