James Zeoli got a phone call just before 5 p.m. Wednesday that his farm stand at the Woodmont Farmers Market in Milford was down to only one dozen eggs.
Zeoli said the market set up had begun the afternoon with 20 dozen eggs for sale, but he quickly sent over 10 dozen more eggs from Shamrock Farm in Orange for the final 90 minutes of the market hours.
“People want the product,” said Zeoli, who also is the first selectman of Orange, of locally produced agricultural goods.
“There’s a lot of market out there,” he said.
But the question remains about what the supply of local food will look like as farmers age and beginners in the agriculture world take alternate routes to making a living off the land.
At age 57, Zeoli said he is far from being old, but recognizes that he is just below the average age of farmers in Connecticut these days. Census data from the U.S. Department of Agriculture puts the average age of farmers in Connecticut at 58, and a recent report from the American Farmland Trust and Land for Good notes that might not be such a good thing for the future of agriculture in the state.
Writers of the report stressed that there were 10 percent fewer farmers under the age of 45 reported in 2012 than there were in 2002, suggesting that the overall population of farmers is aging and that the future of these farms may be uncertain without an immediate successor on board.
According to the report, 92 percent of Connecticut’s farmers over the age of 65 do not have a younger operator on site. Those senior farmers managed 123,000 acres of Connecticut farmland in 2012.
The total population of senior farmers, including those with a younger operator on site, were responsible for $135 million worth of products sold in 2012, according to the report. By contrast, beginner farmers, noted as those with less than 10 years of experience, accounted for close to one quarter of the state’s farmers and produced collectively $39 million in products.