By 9 a.m., Jack Motter had been planting peas for hours.
He pushed a two-wheeled contraption that deposited a seed every few inches along neat rows at Ellwood Canyon Farms, just outside Santa Barbara. As clouds gathered overhead, he picked up the pace to avoid losing days of work to the fall rain.
Timing can mean the difference between profit and loss for the 4-year-old farm.
Motter and his business partner, Jeff Kramer, are part of a growing crop of farmers – many of them young – choosing to produce food without pesticides and synthetic fertilizers. As consumers demand more fresh and local food grown with minimal environmental effects, a new generation has taken up organic farming.
The two Brawley, Calif., natives, both 30, have learned that small-scale agriculture is neither easy nor lucrative. Their days on the 15-acre farm start at dawn and end with exhaustion.
"There's nothing romantic about it," Kramer said. "It's hard work and long hours for little pay."
Agriculture officials are hoping more young people heed the call to till the land, whether organically or conventionally, as the average age of California farmers continues to climb. It hit 58 in 2012, up by nearly two years from 2007, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture's most recent census.
In 2012, the number of California farmers 65 and older grew nearly 20% to 39,428 during the five-year period – nearly three times faster than farmers ages 25 to 34.