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%.
To help turn the tide and do its part to support the rise of a new generation of young farmers and ranchers, the USDA is stepping into the fray. It recently awarded 36 grants totaling $18 million for organizations to provide assistance and training to enable beginning farmers and ranchers to receive the training and assistance necessary to operate and grow successful, sustainable farms, USDA Deputy Secretary Kathleen Merrigan announced Sept. 30.
Christine Anthony and Owen Masterson want to inspire young men and women to consider sustainable farming as a career. To do so, the couple produced and directed a 50-minute documentary entitled GROW! that follows 20 young sustainable farmers on 12 farms in Georgia as they doggedly pursue careers in agriculture despite challenges related to land ownership and lack of farming experience.
“We need more farmers,” Anthony said. “We felt that by showcasing and highlighting some people that were doing it successfully, other people would be able to explore the idea of farming.”
In spring 2009 Nikhil Arora and Alex Velez were in their final semester at UC Berkeley’s Haas School of Business headed toward careers in consulting and banking when a remark made by a professor about the potential for growing mushrooms with used coffee grounds piqued their interest. With a desire to create a socially responsible and sustainable business that could make use of the millions of tons (~24 million tons per year) of used coffee grounds that go almost entirely to waste each year, the two classmates decided to further investigate the idea. What emerged from their research and consultations with mycology experts was Back to the Roots Ventures (BTTR), a startup company focused on sustainably farming gourmet mushrooms in used coffee grounds.
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.