Most modern-day Americans never consider a career in farming. They may see it as impractical, nostalgic, or even unnecessary in a world full of mass-produced, easily-accessible, and seemingly endless food options. But with the downfall of the family farm and the declining integrity of American agriculture as a whole, the need for the next generation of farmers has never been greater than in recent decades.
In 2000, New York’s Greenmarket co-founder Bob Lewis not only recognized this need, but saw a potential solution: New York’s vibrant immigrant population. Despite the lack of farming fervor in the U.S., the agricultural lifestyle still thrives in many countries. As a result, immigrants often come to the U.S. with a wealth of farming know-how and experience, but with no productive outlet for their skills.
Urban Farming Org Collapses Caste System and Offers Second Chances: Garden City Harvest, Missoula, MTSeptember 4, 2013 | Trish Popovitch
“People can look down the mountain onto the farm, see the pumpkins are turning orange and they really have an understanding of where we are in the season. I think all that helps people become attached to their place. That sense of attachment is a prerequisite for all other sorts of civic behavior.” -Josh Slotnick, PEAS Farm
The food desserts that are America’s inner cities are also the site of some of America’s poorest communities and most at-risk youth. By creating urban-based agriculture programs that focus on strengthening community ties and encouraging self-sufficiency, Garden City Harvest and its four urban farms: River Road Farm, Orchard Gardens Farm, Youth Farm and PEAS Farm, are doing their part to create a level playing field in the world of food security and second chances.
“Climbing was great training for farming. They are both really exhausting, painful, frightening experiences that look impossible on the face of them but somehow you get it done.” David Bell, Bell Organic Farm
Located 12 miles north of Salt Lake City, Bell Organic farm of Draper, Utah is what happens when you outgrow your garden and tap an ever expanding marketplace for fresh organic produce. For David and Jill Bell it all started with a bumper crop of heirloom tomatoes.
In 1997, David Bell ran a successful rock climbing business and his wife Jill spent her days waitressing in a local restaurant. They began growing their own vegetables in the backyard, producing far more tomatoes than needed. A local restaurant owner put them in touch with his chef who immediately purchased their excess veggies. Soon after, a local market owner who imported his tomatoes from a greenhouse in Holland wanted to make a purchase.
Awareness of Environmental Impact, Embrace of Sustainability, Defines 4th Generation Deardorff Family FarmsAugust 5, 2013 | Noelle Swan
The Deardorff family has been in the produce business since 1937, helping local farmers in Venice, Hollywood, and Los Angeles distribute their produce. As the city of Los Angeles swelled in the early 1960’s, the Deardorffs followed many of their growers north to Ventura County and began to work the land themselves on their own 50-acre ranch. Since then Deardorff Family Farms has passed through four generations and grown immensely. Today, cousins Scott Deardorff, and Tom Deardorff II farm 2,000 acres of sustainably grown celery, tomatoes, greens, and mixed vegetables throughout Ventura County. They market their produce through wholesale distributors, at local markets, and directly to consumers.
Visiting Blue Moon Farm is a visual delight—an oasis of diverse organic vegetable production in a sprawling landscape otherwise filled with fields of conventionally grown corn and soybean. Long rows of kale, bok choy, and other greens dot the landscape while greenhouses filled with tomatoes and melons stand in stark contrast to the surrounding monoculture.
Jon Cherniss has been tending this land since 1997, finding ways of increasing profitability and longevity while maintaining a commitment to organic farming methods, which are often eschewed in favor of short-term gains in Central Illinois.
As a fourth generation farmer, Elaine Lemmon has a fond relationship with dirt. But growing up, she didn’t plan on becoming a farmer later in her life. When the real world called, she answered, studying anthropology and archeology at Penn State University. But, her studies would later steer her back to farming. “I soon got disenchanted with how science-for-profit really wasn’t good science,” says Lemmon. “The part of archeology I really loved was working outside and working in the soil.”
When Maya Dailey started farming nine years ago, she had little more than big dreams and credit cards on which she purchased seeds. Today, Dailey runs a thriving five-acre farm on the edge of Phoenix, Ariz., and is a well-known figure in the local foodie scene.
She started by growing herbs and selling them to establishments in Santa Fe, N.M., where Dailey worked in the restaurant industry. After moving to Arizona, Dailey added flowers and eggs to the mix.
In 2006, Dailey started a full-time farm at her present location, leasing land tucked in the back corner of The Farm at South Mountain, a peaceful desert oasis featuring trees, grass, picnic tables, three restaurants, a home décor shop and a massage studio.
When Terra and Mike Brownback purchased their countryside farm along with an old, rundown farmhouse in 1978, they had no idea that their little dream would become one of the most prominent and successful organic farms in Central Pennsylvania. With big dreams and a little savings, the suburban kids embarked on a mission to make their own small imprint on the future of sustainable agriculture. Included with their 56 acres in Loysville, Perry County, was an 1880 farmhouse in desperate need of a makeover to even make it livable. “Our house was in such bad shape. The windows were even broken out,” says Terra Brownback.
Thirty-seven years of blood, sweat and tears put into fixing up their home, learning how to farm and purchasing additional adjacent acreage have truly paid off. The Brownback’s now run Spiral Path Farm, a 255-acre farm that is home to a 20-year-old, 2,300-member CSA. It is a USDA Organic-certified producer for local farmers markets and a collection of regional organic wholesale warehouses.