Chef Curtis Stone relies on fresh produce every day, working with local farms and farmers to bring the best seasonal ingredients for diners at his restaurant, Maude, and to his cookbook recipes. But he’s concerned about the future. According to the USDA, the average age of the American family farmer is 57 and the fastest growing group of American farmers is age 65 and older. As older farmers retire, the big question is: Who is going to replace them?
“It’s a serious issue we’re faced with,” Stone says. “If there are no younger farmers coming through, it’s pretty obvious what happens in the future.”
To raise awareness about the challenges young farmers face, Stone is partnering with the National Young Farmers Coalition, a new organization created by and for young farmers in the United States.
There are two principle ideas behind the coalition. First, if America wants active farms and sustainable food production in 50 years, we need more young farmers. Secondly, the many young people who are pursuing farming today need help. They’ve got big ideas and are ready to work, but the majority won’t be able to create viable long-term businesses without policy change, stronger networks, and training. Areas of focus for the group include: student loan forgiveness, land access, and water conservation and access.
“The lack of farmers entering the industry, and the challenges they face, is something we don’t hear a lot about, so I was really happy to see farmers and their friends and families jump into the #MoreFarmers Twitter conversation to share their experience,” says Stone during a recent interview with Modern Farmer. “I’m looking forward to continuing the conversation so that we can raise more awareness and support for these farmers.”
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