The young farmers movement is growing, and the circle of caring continues to expand. As we work to build a business around our love of farming and a family alongside our practice, we encounter one scary part of growing up: Realizing how deeply critical our own health is to the viability of the farm. As young farmers with brave muscles and big dreams, we invest our best physical years in finding, setting up and capitalizing a farmstead. As entrepreneurs, we take tremendous risks and reinvest the earnings in service to a new small business. As citizens, we commit ourselves to place and to the performance of an ancient and sacred duty: providing sustenance to our community. But when the operation of all these interlocking systems relies for its longevity on the physical strength and resilience of an individual body, the body of the young farmer turns out to be one of the weakest links in the new food system.
We need healthcare. Many of us cannot afford it. Farming is physical labor with physical risks and with great demands on performance over time. As a nation served by many workers, some unionized, some wearing uniforms, we recognize the importance of retaining skilled practitioners with benefits. Our firefighters, coast guards and electricians are all provided with benefits, and healthcare. Why not farmers? Our enlisted soldiers and their families are provided with coverage for their service. Why not our farmers?
The reclaiming of our local economy will hopefully, in the next decade, be characterized by greater institutional regionalism. This means schools and hospitals buying food from local farms, this means deep partnerships of commerce within residential districts and within agricultural districts. In order to succeed at this level of engagement, the farmers will negotiate the hurdles of liability, red tape and logistics of rescaling. We’ll be operating forklifts and mid-sized delivery vans; we’ll be scaling up production. We will spend a lot of time resizing, retrofitting and rethinking systems of food production and distribution, in real time, and at real physical risk to ourselves. This is important work. We cannot lose the hardworking members of the team to illness and injury. We cannot lose any fingers or toes. We cannot afford for our farmers to be distracted by financial worry associated with the birth of
a child or the infection of a blister. We need to provide health coverage for farmers, young and old, owners and workers, for the longevity of the sector and of the nation.
Lobbying for these issues is crucial. Are you interested in joining our National Young Farmers Coalition and working with partners to figure out possible solutions to the affordable health care situation? Please join the Greenhorns mailing list so that we can keep you in the loop. And read more about what’s happening on the ground for young farmers in our newsletter, the Greenhorns Circular.