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
I have a weird fascination with inventions, and often wonder what the beginning of something was. What led to someone coming up with stained glass? Or what about an alarm clock? These are simple creations that pale in comparison with even more complex items that we also use without much thought…dishwashers? Copy machines? This computer? Maybe I should have pursued a career in engineering, but more likely my preoccupation with these inventions is due to the fact that I have little understanding of them. It seems that that disconnect between the things we use and depend on and how they function leads to a pretty common level of frustration. The rise in DIY projects and interest that we are seeing these days surely has to do with that frustration leading to a push for self-reliance.
I think it also has to do with a larger disconnect, one that has moved us away from community minded information sharing and collaboration. We have less and less opportunity in this modern world to wave down a neighbor with a question about chicken husbandry or how to fix a broken well pump. Instead, we jump on the Internet and Google the answer, hoping that the source we choose to trust is reputable and fact-based. The National Young Farmers’ Coalition (NYFC) has launched a project for the today’s sustainable farming community that brings the best of both worlds together. FarmHack taps the same age-old premise of learning directly from others in a similar community while creating innovative open source sharing technologies to reach small farmers around the globe. Read more
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. Read more