Youth in their 20s and 30s are taking their hands to the plow, but what does the new trend in Hipster farming mean for the food future?
It is true, many of the younger generation don’t trust typical farming operations and are risking a new career in either growing their own and selling at local markets, or taking on the family farm.
At least half of today’s farmland is run by a much older crowd, and when they retire it appears the 40s and 50s crowd are unable to pick up the line. The USDA is seizing this opportunity to harvest the farmer Johnnies to continue agriculture under their model of farming. That’s why, under the 2008 Farm Bill, the department distributed $18 million to educate young growers and ranchers across the country. Farm programs are now appearing at many universities.
Secretary of Agriculture, Tom Vilsack, hopes that some of the beginning farmers will graduate to stakes in midsize and large farms as older farmers retire. “I think there needs to be more work in this area,” he said. “It’s great to invest $18 million to reach out to several thousand to get them interested, but the need here is pretty significant. We need to be even more creative than we’ve been to create strategies so that young people can access operations of all sizes.”
Garry Stephenson, of the Small Farms Program at Oregon State University, says he has not seen so much interest among young people in decades. “They’re young, energetic and idealist, and they’re willing to make the sacrifices.” That they are, and they may be unaware of what they’re digging into, if they take funds from the USDA.
Some of these particular young adults are citing punk rock, Karl Marx, and pro-Food Safety Law food journalist Michael Pollan as their inspiration. Their reasons for plowing the land appear to differ greatly from the more self-sufficient, young organic growers.
Many articles are simply calling all young people “hipsters” although in the pop cultural sense of the word, hipster conjures up an image of a self important, ostensibly anti-corporate trust fund kid. If that connotation is accurate (although possibly unfair), those could be type enticed by government help to keep agriculture afloat, but having the romantic ideal of helping the land, treating animals better, and being unconventional.
And it may start out that way. It just doesn’t take long before the subsidies with strings, chemicals, and Monsanto seeds flood in.
These trendy farmsters may have the best of intentions, but are they playing right into the hands of Club Agri? Tom Vilsack might as well be calling out to them from a ginger bread house, promising lots of goodies to get started, just as in the day of our farmers a few generations back.
Let’s hope, hipster or not, that young people do carry the torch for farmlands, but cultivate the land as it was before the USDA dependent, Monsanto molested, corporate steered, chem-agro days.