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For decades, as young people have been leaving farms behind, the average age of the American farmer has been rising. The last time the government counted farmers, in 2002, the average farmer was 55-years-old.
But there’s a new surge of youthful vigor into American agriculture – at least in the corner of it devoted to organic, local food. Thousands of young people who’ve never farmed before are trying it out.
Some 250 of them gathered recently at a gorgeous estate in the Hudson River valley of New York: the Stone Barns Center for Food and Agriculture in Tarrytown.
Some of these young farmers already have their own farms. Some are apprentices, working on more established farms for a year or two. And others are still just thinking about it. But the overwhelming majority of farmers here at this conference want to farm without chemical fertilizers or pesticides.
They were there to learn skills – from seminars on soil fertility, handling sheep, and how to find affordable land – and just as importantly, to meet each other. In the evening, they played music and danced.
They represent a new breed of farmer. Very few of them grew up on farms. Most of them went to college. And now, they want to grow vegetables, or feed pigs.