Stone Barns Center for Food & Agriculture, a nonprofit 80-acre four-season farm and education center in Pocantico Hills, NY (a hop, skip and a jump from Manhattan) is looking for aspiring farmers to counteract an alarming trend in agriculture: an aging population of farmers that isn’t getting any younger.
According to the National Agricultural Statistics Service, as of the 2002 Census, the average age of all U.S. farmers was approximately 55. More distressing, though, is that from 1982 to 2002 the number of young principal farmers under 35 years old has declined from 16% to 9%. Stone Barns Center attributes this decline in young farmers to years of economic forces that have deterred young people from regarding farming as a viable career opportunity.
“Most of the time you don’t hear of an aquaculture center in the middle of cornfields in the Midwest.” – Norman McCowan, President of Bell Aquaculture
Aquaculture, or fish farming under controlled conditions, is growing faster than all other food producing sectors worldwide. According to the FAO, aquaculture has maintained an average growth rate of 9.2% per year since 1970 and as of today accounts for nearly 50% of total fish production by weight. The industry, which is dominated by operations in Asia, is just now starting to take off in the US.
From the Grade A milk products that its produces (including special cotton candy and root beer flavored milks) to the humane manner in which it treats its 1500 dairy cows to its involvement in the community and support for the local economy, Prairieland Dairy strives to embody the core tenets of sustainable agriculture. Prairieland’s commitment to use sustainable methods and practices on its fourth generation dairy operation in Firth, Nebraska began in 1998 and since then the farm has never looked back.
There’s not a key issue that the next generation faces that doesn’t have agriculture at the center of it, according to US Department of Agriculture Deputy Secretary Kathleen Merrigan, who spoke Wednesday at UC Davis.
From the obesity epidemic to climate change to joblessness, what happens in agriculture plays a critical role, Merrigan said. Her speech focused on the USDA’s Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food (KYF2) initiative, a USDA-wide effort to carry out President Obama’s commitment to strengthening local and regional food systems.
One of the greatest problems confronting farmers today is how to control plant disease and pests while minimizing environmental impact and remaining profitable. When synthetic chemical pesticides were first developed in the early 20th century, they were embraced as a less harmful solution to the highly toxic inorganic chemicals (sulfur, lead and arsenic) that humans had been using to kill insects on their crops for the past 4,500 years. However, evidence pointing to the environmental damage and adverse human health effects caused by the synthetic chemical pesticides that fueled the Green Revolution continues to mount.
AgraQuest, a biotechnology company that develops biological and low-chemical pest management products, believes that it has the solution: Biopesticides.