When I first saw the “40 Farmers Under 40” article I was intrigued. I recently finished up some research where I learned that, according to the 2007 USDA Census of Agriculture, the average farmer is 57 and over a quarter of those are over 65. If you are new to the farm world like me that number seems oddly high. Farm work is not easy, back-breaking even, and it seems like it would be helpful to have youth on your side.
I also recently finished writing up a story about a young farmer breaking the traditional rules in Missouri. Walker Claridge is much like the forty farmers profiled in the article. He is young, is focused on bringing local foods to the tables in his community and is completely nontraditional.
Farms no longer have to be a few thousands acres located in the Midwest and harvested using combines. I mean, those farms still exist and we need them, of course, but more and more farms are cropping up on half-acre lots in cities and suburbs and on the roofs of apartment complexes or—in one interesting article I read—in the back of a pick-up truck. Young farmers are innovative and learning that they can do things differently and chart new paths in agriculture.
In this young farmers movement you might find farmers who grew up in the city or suburbs, who went to school to earn their masters or doctoral degree and then farm—either in the city or in the country or somewhere in between. These young farmers are farming in old and new ways, working directly with consumers, and building new communities centered around food and farming, like Walker Claridge.
Overall the article is hopeful for a future full of fresh, local and organic produce. Many of the complaints found in the comments focus on the lack of diversity featured in the article. While it’s true the article could have done a better job featuring minorities other than females, non-white farmers, again according to the USDA Census of Agriculture, only comprise 4.1 percent of Americas farmers and even less than that are under the age of forty. Which means we still have a lot of work to do, but these young farmers are a step in the right direction!
Farm Aid is proud that one of our 2009 artists—Jason Mraz—is top on this list of young farmers! Jason grows avocados in California. Read more about him in the article and come hear his music at Farm Aid 2009 Presented by Horizon Organic.