Young Farmers Sprouting Up Across the Nation | Civil Eats

Young Farmers Sprouting Up Across the Nation

In an attempt to explain what seems to be the seed of a cosmic shift in how farming is practiced and portrayed in America, I offer you my story:

I’m 26 years old, and after a three year stint working on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange, and navigating the concrete jungle, I needed out.

I was interested in much more than a career change. My mind, my body, my immune system, my belief system, my soul, my skin, and my fingertips—every piece of me began aching to evacuate the city immediately.

Without any major physical ailments or health concerns to speak of, my ill feelings inspired me to reexamine what I, as a human being, truly needed to get by. All the things I felt I needed—fresh food raised naturally, exercising and sweating in the sun, getting dirt under my nails, breathing fresh air, walking on earth, feeling accomplished by my labor—these very personal things I craved were being hustled, bustled, and trampled on by my own over-stimulated, under-satisfied, never-sleeping, big apple life.

Exposed to organics, local farmers, and the flourishing Brooklyn farm-to-table restaurant scene, I had gotten a taste of what was possible and there was no turning back. I was hooked—something from deep inside me began to slowly bubble towards the surface.

As I looked around me–whether it be America as a whole, a particular state I was in, the strangers sitting across from me on public transit, or even my closest loved ones–I’ve seen that we are becoming a sick people. Fat and obese people everywhere, widespread learning disabilities amongst children, and cancers riddling away entire family trees are now cultural norms.

Finally there came a point in time (about a year ago to the day) when I refused to continue going along for the ride. There are wrongs—serious wrongs—being committed to our land, to our people, and to our freedoms on a daily basis at the grocery checkout counter. The expression “you are what you eat” is no old wives’ tale, it’s pure truth. At any given second our cells are dying and new ones are being reproduced using whatever we put in our mouths. Do you want to replace your dead cells with nutrient dense vegetables and healthy, well-balanced animal fats—or processed and packaged toxins?

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Organics pioneer, Sir Albert Howard, wrote in his 1943 book An Agricultural Testament, “artificial manures lead inevitably to artificial nutrition, artificial food, artificial animals, and finally artificial men and women.” This cycle is an ever-worsening situation for our country, and it realizes an unholy amount of cash flow for the nation’s worst perpetrators against the public health and well-being.

Young people everywhere are living with these effects first hand. The drastic changes, consolidations, short cuts, and widespread use of drugs and chemicals in conventional agriculture have all taken place right under our grandparent’s noses. Food did not used to be like this, and the older generation is our witness. While old timers can cheerfully reminisce about the days when they had chickens out back, or picked berries with their papa, people my age are first beginning to bear the true consequences of industrialized food. Young people can see it in their broken families, in their autistic sisters, and in their asthmatic cousins who survive on diets of fruity pebbles and Ritalin. We see it, and we want to change it.

For the first time in many generations there is an uprising of young men and women stepping onto America’s fields, digging into earth, and making a sustainable and satisfying life for themselves. We are doing it not only because we want to, but because we need to. We are passionate, we are educated, and we are on a mission to heal our communities, our families, the land, and ourselves.

And so, from Wall Street one day, to rural Georgia the next, I am currently farming under the tutelage of farmer/restaurateur Jason Mann.  Through our vegetable wing, Full Moon Farms, and our pasture raised meat cooperative, Moonshine Meats, we feed the community through a successful community supported agriculture (CSA) program, as well as supplying Jason’s two farm-AND-table restaurants that please both mouths as well as minds (Farm255 in Athens and Farm Burger in Decatur).

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I’d like to close this post with a quote from a fellow young farmer, and good friend, that I think embodies the spirit of our movement. This was the closing to a farewell email he wrote on his departure from our Athens community: “It may not seem like it all the time, but our paths are both humble and righteous, and we cannot go wrong.”

Jared Pickard is a twenty-six year old farmer and storyteller. He is learning to farm biodynamic vegetables and pasture raised hogs, chickens, and cattle in Athens, Georgia, and shares his experience on his website, im high on After Georgia, Pickard plans to move to the west coast with his girlfriend, and the two hope to work towards developing their own farm based entrepreneurial ventures. Read more >

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  1. Jenny
    This is a beautiful post, and captures the spirit of this fabulous new growth in agriculture of all kinds. Kudos to you Jared, and best wishes in your future endeavors. I hope it inspires some of us to follow in your footsteps.
  2. luis godio
    if this is a movement you´re starting, i've just realized that i share the same philosophy and have investigated on renewable pesticides and water efficiency. I am studying agrobiotechnology and would love to see everything you are doing. It seems like you are evolving as supposed to in a natural, balanced way, which may make our life a lot better. If interested i would like to share an idea for a better outdoors, organic compound which has so many uses in agriculture, from costa rica, well done my friend.
  3. Wonderful post! It's so nice to see someone whose really taking charge in the problems that they see. Keep up the good work!
  4. Maaike
    Thank you so much for sharing your beautiful story with us Jared! I am a woman close in age and I share a very similar sentiment. We are certainly not alone here. I find what you are doing incredibly inspiring, and also it's so refreshing to hear a young guy like yourself passionately discussing far more important and necessary topics like you are then what seems to be the typical "getting trashed/ banging chicks" credo that so many of your male counterparts seem to have, well hopefully you know what I mean. Anyway, kudos to you and your work, and best of luck in all of your endeavors!
    Also, you may already know, but check out Stone Barns Center for Food & Agriculture's 3rd Annual Young Farmer's Conference this December (I'm not affiliated with them, just an admirer). You sound like a person who could really contribute to their cause.
  5. Good news - young farmers are the future. That is the trend in Oregon too.
  6. Jordan
    9th paragraph second to last line
    that is insulting. i may not be autistic or have one of the disabilities that everyone else calls the "norm" but i have adhd and i need to take Ritalin.
  7. Brian
    Very inspiring. I currently live in China and work for a food company that sources ingredients for its products in USA. Not only do the suppliers in China have poor manufacturing conditions, but I continually ask myself if putting these chemicals in our bodies is the right thing...more and more I am realizing that this is not what I was meant to do. Best of luck to anyone who has the guts to leave a great job and do something better for our great Nation!
  8. We've taken 144 acres of good farm land in the Heartland, and weaned it off of chemicals and GMO's. Right in the middle, we corridored off 16 acres and took it through the county subdivision approval process. So far, we have two homes: one was recognized as Iowa's most sustainable house through the LEED merit system. We're now certified organic, and will plant 20,000 trees in the spring on the SW 40 acres. We've started an orchard, gardens and are row cropping the better land. What I need are young farmers who would like to lease or purchase part of the farm in order to get something done. The 144 acres used to be 1/10th of a job for a conventional farmer; however, now there's jobs for a dozen people. I can't finance all this, so maybe its better to break up the farm into farmettes. We're on paved road, two miles from the progressive city of Fairfield. Check us out. Thanks

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