Back in the 1970’s I and a small group of cohorts, all young urban professionals, decided to become farmers and start vineyards. I guess we were part of the back-to-the-land movement of that time. We didn’t know what we were getting into and how difficult it would be, but we stuck with it, learned a lot, and developed the Oregon wine industry which didn’t exist when we started.
Something similar is happening today and is a bright spot in the agricultural scene. After so many years of people leaving farms, there is a new trend. Young people are deciding to farm and what they’re doing gives me hope for the future of farming. These new operations are still small, usually couples with young children. They have taken a diversified approach, combining crops of vegetables and fruits, often with chickens or livestock. Most are certified organic.
They have avoided the conventional commodity farming system by branding themselves–Oakhill Organics, Gaining Ground Farm, Growing Wild Farm, Greenwillow Farms–and selling directly to end users, either consumers through CSAs or Farmers Markets or restaurants. Their markets are primarily local and restaurants have started listing purveyors as part of the menu so their customers know where their food is coming from. Getting fresh, local products has given chefs better ingredients and improved local cuisine. Fresh, local, sustainable is healthier for the farmers who grow and the people who consume, as well as the health of the land.
Farming is not an easy life. Nature dictates what needs to be done and when on her schedule, not the farmer’s. These young couples are working harder than they ever would at a desk job. But the ones I know love their connection to the land, eat well, and are making a decent living. I hope they represent the future of farming