If some of today’s up-and-coming farmers have their way, industrial farming is on the way out and more traditional farming methods are on the way back in. With the average age of an American farmer nearing 60 and fewer 20-somethings choosing to enter the field, we may be facing a farming crisis in the next decade. However, after reading an article in The New York Times, I’m more hopeful about the future of farming in the United States.
Isolde Raftery, who wrote the article, consulted with Garry Stephenson with the Small Farms Program at Oregon State University. Stephenson has noticed an increased interest in farming among today’s youth, something he hasn’t seen in some time. “They’re young, they’re energetic and idealist, and they’re willing to make the sacrifices.” Source: The New York Times
In her article, Raftery highlights several millennials, those in their 20s and early 30s, who have decided to make farming a career. Not just any old farming, though — they are focusing on earth-conscious farming. Free-range, grass-fed, organic and sustainable are all buzz words used by these farmers.
While the story focused on the young farmers in the Oregon area, there are a growing number of eco-minded up-and-coming farmers in communities across the country. At last month’s MOSES Organic Farming Conference, the largest organic farming conference in the nation, an entire series of workshops was dedicated to individuals between the ages of 18 and 25 who are interested in organic farming. This year’s event topped 3,000 attendees, setting a new attendance record.
As today’s farmers enter their retirement years, we need to ensure that there is a new crop of farmers ready to take their places. If today’s youth can be enticed into the agriculture industry, with a focus on sustainable agriculture, the farms of tomorrow may look drastically different than they do today.