The connection crackles slightly as I pick up the phone.
A couple thousand miles away in Oaxaca, Mexico where she is currently working on a Fulbright, Leah Penniman replies. Though I am nervous to speak with someone whose work I greatly admire, Leah’s humor and openness quickly puts me at ease.
The average age of American farmers is 58.3 years, according to the U.S. Census of Agriculture. Young farmers are needed, and those who are inexperienced have a variety of farmer training programs (many of them focusing on sustainability) to choose from.
- Oregon’s Rogue Farm Corps runs an internship program for beginning farmers called FarmsNext. This full-season offering trains new farmers and ranchers in sustainable agriculture. Those enrolled in the program gain up to 1,500 hours of hands-on training from a mentor, 75 hours of classroom time, local farm tours and independent study opportunities. Rogue Farm Corps runs four chapters across the state: Rogue Valley, South Willamette, Portland and Central Oregon. The organization was founded in 2003 by farmers in the southern part of the state who saw the need to provide education to those new to agriculture.
After graduating college, Hannah and Jonathan Moser learned the mechanics of CSA management while working on a vegetable farm in Australia. Then the couple came home to North Dakota and decided to give it a try for themselves, launching Forager Farm.
The farm consists of approximately three acres of growing space on a large family cattle ranch. The Mosers completed their first growing season in October, using intensive growing, diverse crops and sustainable methods. Very quickly, Forager Farm has emerged as a leader in the local community’s sustainable local food scene.
In a state with very few CSA programs in place, the concept of a local food movement remains a fringe idea. In order to promote and gain support for consumer supported agriculture in the region, the Mosers had to first educate people as to what the need. Using her storytelling skills and a degree in PR and marketing, Hanna uses the web as a platform for growing awareness in her community.
If you want change, you need passion to make it happen. Sophie Ackoff, who works with the National Young Farmers Coalition helping young farmers help themselves, has bushels of it.
As the coalition’s national field director, she travels the country bringing together folks who are beginning careers in ranching and agriculture to organize for a better environment to do their vital work.
“At NYFC, we believe there should be fewer barriers to starting a farm business in the United States,” Ackoff tells Seedstock. “As a coalition of farmers, we are identifying the barriers we face, fighting for the policy changes we need, and bringing farmers together, in person and online to learn, to share and build a stronger community.”
From coast to coast, 20- and 30- something adults are ditching their power suits and ties for shovels and seeds. From novice upstarts to young farmers carrying on a family legacy, we’ve rounded up some inspiring, young farmers, farming duos, and teams who are leading the charge in sustainable farming.
by Rose Egelhoff
Across the country, sustainable agriculture is growing on college campuses. Carefully nourished soil on old athletic fields and other underutilized areas is becoming darker and richer, and nascent orchards are surviving the trial-and-error pruning of novices to mature and bear fruit. These student-led farms are providing local food, community, and practical agricultural experience to their young caretakers.
Here are 5 farms across the nation where students are working, learning and experimenting in sustainable food production.
When Birke Baehr was 8 years old, he read about the possibility of high-fructose corn syrup containing mercury and grew alarmed, and curious. His curiosity led to further research about the health of foods produced through conventional agriculture. The more Baehr learned, the more he became convinced that he needed to tell others of what he was learning.
Wanting to get his message across to younger readers, Baehr wrote a children’s book titled “Birke on the Farm: The Story of a Boy’s Search for Real Food.”
Situated on the last few acres of a 140-year old family homestead, Everitt Farms hopes to serve as a platform for a local food district, returning a new Denver suburb to its old agricultural roots.
Located in Lakewood, Colorado, the farm is an urban agricultural experiment initiated by husband-and-wife team Derek and Kamise Mullen.
“We both have really wanted to do something like this for honestly, a good portion of our lives,” says Kamise Mullen. “It really wasn’t until we got married about four years ago that we actually started really growing food and trying to farm at all.”