Five years ago, Slow Foods’ “Most Endangered Foods” list included the Marshall Strawberry. The fruit, known as the finest eating strawberry in America by the James Beard Foundation, is a deep, dark, red, with an exceptionally bold flavor. After World War II, the Marshall was devastated by viruses and has been left out of conventional supermarket supply chains due to its soil specifications and the delicate handling it requires. Read more
The University of Vermont’s Farmer Training Program, introduced in May 2011, is an intensive six-month program that aims to provide graduates with an education and support system that encourages them to create and maintain sustainable farms and food businesses. What distinguishes the program from typical farm apprenticeships, in addition to the application fee for enrollment, is the comprehensive exposure to different types of sustainable food industries in the food system, from a stint on a 500-member CSA farm to working for a smaller, specialty grower.
Civil Eats spoke to Robinson Yost, one of the current students in the program. After studying anti-colonial politics as an undergraduate student, he studied ecological building methods in New Mexico and participated in a reforestation project and low-impact living experiment in Southeast India. As a young farmer, Robinson is a telling example of the sort of unconventional backgrounds that many young farmers are bringing into the American food system. Read more
Starting a farm is not easy, a business in which high startup costs and a lack of available land for purchase or rent are obvious obstacles. As our nation’s farmers grow older–the average American farmer is 57–and we simultaneously undergo a shift towards reclaiming our food system, young and beginning farmers are stepping up. Government programs designed to help farmers have existed for many years, but much of this funding is only within reach of large-scale producers that have been in the business for many years. Several USDA programs are geared towards helping farms based on production, favoring commodity farmers and large-scale farmers, which keep these loans out of the hands of smaller start-ups.
But new opportunities are in development for young farmers. Read more