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Natural Awakenings

Hipster Farmers: More Young Adults Put their Hands to the Plow

Jun 30, 2011 10:48AM

Conditions are perfect for a new generation of farmers in their 20s and 30s that distrust industrial food systems, are intent on meaningful employment and may well succeed an aging farm populace. More are starting small farms and joining networks of like-minded agriculture enthusiasts, according to a recent story in The New York Times, and the U.S. Department of Agriculture wants to transform the budding trend into a fundamental shift. Last year, under a provision in the 2008 Farm Bill, the department distributed $18 million to educate young growers and ranchers across the country.

Garry Stephenson, coordinator of the Small Farms Program at Oregon State University, says he has not seen so much interest among young people in decades. “They’re young, energetic and idealist, and they’re willing to make the sacrifices,” he says.

According to the USDA’s 2007 Census of Agriculture, farmers over 55 currently own more than half of the country’s farmland. According to Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack, the hope is that some of the beginning farmers will graduate to stakes in midsize and large farms as older farmers retire.

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