The need for new farmers
We need to recruit and train more new farmers to keep future populations fed.
According to the United States Department of Agriculture, America’s farmers are getting older. In 1945 the average age of a farmer was 39; in 1974 it was 45; in 2007 the average farmer was 58. This means that we need more young farmers to continue to feed our future growing population. There are several nationwide efforts underway, and a few local ones that are training new growers to fill in the gaps.
Michigan State University’s Student Organic Farm (SOF) offers a nine month intensive training in year-round organic agricultural training. It trains participants in growing fruits & vegetables, livestock, herbs and cut flowers organically. Participants also learn how to grow crops in passive solar greenhouses called hoop houses that extend the growing season for increased profits. Business planning and management are also emphasized in this program. While there are lectures and other traditional schoolwork, participants learn primarily by working on the farm growing crops for the SOF’s 48-week Community Supported Agriculture (CSA), farm stand and sales to the university’s kitchens. Merit and need-based scholarships are also offered on an annual basis.
Earthworks Agricultural Training (E.A.T.) is a nine month beginner farmer training program that focuses on urban agriculture and food systems. Participants earn a certificate in urban farming while being paid for the work they do on Earthworks urban farms and in their hoop houses. While experiential learning of farming and work skills are emphasized, they also work on individual goals and touch on environmental and social justice issues. E.A.T. students also visit other project sites and other urban agriculture endeavors to experience different farming and work styles.