Posts Tagged With: young farmers

The Face of the Average American Farmer

"Average" American Farmers

“Average” American Farmers

The average age of American farmers is nearly 60 years old. For every one farmer and rancher under the age of 25, there are five who are 75 or older, according to Agriculture Department statistics (see Huffington Post). This presents a dilemma for the owners of single family farms, particularly if there is not a younger family member interested in continuing the family tradition. Another conundrum is the fact that family farmers rely on the sale of their land to finance their retirement. Most young people do not have the financial resources to purchase land, much less to modernize the equipment. Some older farmers depend upon their own skills to make repairs and their equipment may be quite antiquated.

Our Old Faithful John Deere 2050

Our Old Faithful John Deere Tractor

Thankfully, there is growing interest by the federal government and various other organizations in helping younger farmers overcome these hurdles (Young Farmers Coalition). We recently attended the 2015 Eco Farm Conference and were encouraged by what we heard. There are small grants and training opportunities available to help young people get started in farming (see here). There are also programs to help veterans find connections and resources to begin farming (Farmer Veteran Coalition).

We are in the unenviable position of needing to make the transition to a less-intensive lifestyle otherwise known as retirement. Unenviable because we do not want to do the easy thing and sell our land to a large corporate farming operation like several of our neighbors have recently done (see post). The alfalfa field and small dairy across the road to the west that belonged to our long-time neighbors and friends was sold and is being prepared for planting Almonds. The family farm to the east of us across the ditch was sold and the nectarine and plum trees were removed. At least they are planting more fruit trees – Apricots.

You may be wondering if there’s anything you can do to help. We suggest donating to organizations such as those mentioned above that are dedicated to preserving single family farms and farmland. The American Farmland Trust is another organization you might look into supporting. They are in the beginning stages of helping farmers such as us make the transition to a less-intensive lifestyle. We love what we do, but need to scale-back so that we can enjoy other of life’s pursuits while we still are able to do so.

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Selfie at Coldwater Lake, WA

Categories: agblog, Agchat, agriculture, family farm, photos, small farm, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , | Leave a comment

Kudos to Young Farmers

We had the opportunity to give a farm tour to some young farmers the other day.  This passionate group is developing community gardens in under-served communities otherwise known as “food deserts.”  They also glean fruit from farms and backyard trees to help supply the local food banks.

Strolling Around the Farm

They were full of questions about organic farming and Mike shared his wisdom and expertise with them.  Our dog, Penney, enjoyed all the attention, too.  It is great to know that there are young people interested in using their own time and resources to meet the needs of others.  This next generation has many more tools when it comes to networking and finding resources than the previous one.  They can use technology to farm more efficiently and research topics to gain knowledge.  Still, it’s nice to know us old farts have something to contribute, too.

Mike loves sharing the knowledge he’s gained in his 33 years of farming with others, young and old.  Some things about farming will never change, though.  For one, it is just plain hard work.  It’s hot and dirty, too, especially here in the central San Joaquin Valley.  Also, it is unpredictable as I wrote about in another post.  No matter how much technology or science you have, the weather cannot be controlled.  There is an element of faith needed to farm.

Us old fart farmers are doers.  This new generation are doers and thinkers.  When things go south on the farm, we tighten our belts, pull up our bootstraps and work even harder the next year.  Young farmers may do all this, but they also reach out to each other for support and look for remedies beyond the farm.  They do not isolate themselves which can lead to discouragement.  Rather they seek solutions so that they can continually improve their practices and products in the future.

Having said that, we, too, are always looking for ways to improve and we do reach out to others, but we sometimes lack the energy and abilities of youth to implement our ideas.  Kudos to young farmers! By the way, our door is always open, if you have any questions you think us old fart farmers can help you with.

Categories: agblog, farming, organic farm, photos, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , | 2 Comments

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