It’s time for a revolution in the food system—both young and new farmers need more support to nourish future generations. Farmers, businesses, policymakers, and educators need to promote agriculture as an intellectually stimulating and economically sustainable career, and to make jobs in agriculture and the food system “cool” for young people all over the world.
Agriculture means more than subsistence farming. Today, young people can explore career options in permaculture design, biodynamic farming, communication technologies, forecasting, marketing, logistics, quality assurance, urban agriculture projects, food preparation, environmental sciences, and advanced technologies, among others..
These farmers are the future of food. They can help to mitigate and potentially reverse climate change, curb unemployment and migration, and provide more nutrient-dense crops to the world.
It’s time to cultivate a new wave of food pioneers. And today’s young farmers need our support. Here are 11 ways to help the next generation of farmers nourish future consumers.
- Join a Community Supported Agriculture program (CSA) or shop at a local farmers market: These avenues are the most direct ways to support local farmers. A CSA is a program in which members purchase a share of vegetables from a local farmer in regular installments over the course of the season. In a neighborhood CSA, members take on administrative and management duties, allowing the farmer to focus on growing and delivering quality vegetables.
- Donate: Consider donating to organizations whose mission is to look out for the interests of young farmers. Donations to the Rodale Institute funds research to support economically viable organic agriculture. Contributing to the National Sustainable Agriculture Information Service helps farmers implement sustainable practices which utilize innovations in science and technology. Or, support representatives from the National Young Farmer’s Coaltion who speak up for young farmers in local and national political arenas.
- Be informed: Visit EatWild for information on how young farmers are more likely to implement grass-farming systems, and read about the other ways young farmers are using sustainable practices. The Greenhorns, a nonprofit, grassroots organization that connects and recruits new farmers through media, created a The Greenhorns Documentary (see trailer below). They also feature a film festival of documentary films about the struggles of new farmers. Watch the films, or explore their events calendar and other media outlets, to find out more.
- Tell policymakers: Let government officials know that young farmers are key to the future of agriculture by supporting policies that make farming a viable option for those just starting out. Join Food Tank in asking local officials to provide services and aid for new farmers.
- Volunteer: Volunteering time and skills can be invaluable. When community members offer their own skills, farmers can spend more time nurturing the land. Reach out to a local farmer’s market to inquire about opportunities. The Young Farmer Network recruits volunteers for varying aspects of the national program, from media and advertising to event planning.
- Be hands-on: Visiting a working farm can be educational and fun. Use the LocalHarvest farm directory and take a family trip, or a group of friends, to learn about the inner workings of a local farm. Knowledge and exposure to farm life will help invest future generations in local agriculture. For long-term farm work, including internships or apprenticeships, visit Worldwide Opportunities on Organic Farms (WWOOF) or GoodFoodJobs.
- Share with friends: Chef and author Bryant Terry encourages individuals to help by “making a delicious meal and sharing it with friends to illustrate how wonderful this food can be … then encouraging them to have a similar way of getting their own food.” Sharing sustainable practices and food experiences with others will motivate them to support young farmers.
- Join a co-op: Most co-ops strive to stock their shelves with locally grown food. Co-ops keep prices low by relying on the participation and management of its members, while still paying farmers fair prices. Search the directory to find a local co-op.
- Find your favorite foods locally: Many farmers in the United States use LocalHarvest to reach out to a wider community. Check to see if your farm-fresh favorites are available nearby or online.
- Spread the word: Social media is powerful. Telling others about a budding farm or agriculture event via social media can bring awareness and understanding of this issue to an even wider audience. Spread the word on opportunities, like how to become a Global Community Champion or enter the Real Food Media Contest.
- Join young farmer organizations and mentoring programs: Help cultivate the next generation of farmers by mobilizing and engaging youth to start careers in agriculture. Play a big role in beginning farmers’ careers by joining the National Young Farmers Coalition, the National Farmers Union, Young Professionals for Agricultural Development, and Farmer to Farmer.
Reprinted with permission from Food Tank.
Photo at top and featured image by Erin O’Neill
Danielle Nierenberg is President of Food Tank and an expert on sustainable agriculture and food issues. She has written extensively on gender and population, the spread of factory farming in the developing world and innovations in sustainable agriculture. Danielle co-founded Food Tank, a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization, in 2013 as an organization focused on building a global community for safe, healthy, nourished eaters. Already, the organization boasts more than twenty major institutional partners and has also recruited more than 40 of the world’s top leaders in food and agriculture policies and advocacy work as part of Food Tank’s Advisory Board.