This past week I’ve been thinking about the post I wrote last week (“Why Farming?”) and have realized that, although I discussed how the work of farming is meaningful and fulfilling to me, I didn’t fully address the “why” of “Why Farming?” Why farming, say, instead of medicine, education, or any one of the millions of other things I could do with my life?
It has to do with food.
I love food. I love to eat food, to cook food, to experiment with food. Food is what speaks to me – what matters to me. I’ve spent a good deal of time in the last 10 years reading about food, experimenting with food, and learning about how different foods affect my body. And along the way I’ve learned a lot about the benefits of nutritious, high-quality, whole foods and what it takes to raise and grow these products.
As my enthusiasm for good food grew, I began to shop at local farmers’ markets as much as possible, which was an education in itself. For one thing, eating seasonal produce and locally-grown meats and eggs really teaches your taste buds what food actually tastes like, what really good food can taste like. The superior taste of real food was, in fact, the thing that eventually converted my husband to shopping at the local farmers’ markets. It’s not his idea of fun to get up early on Saturday morning to go food shopping, being one of the first people at the market just to allay my fears that “all the good stuff is gonna be gone!” But we both found that the extra effort was absolutely worth it for food that tasted better than anything you could get at a store and made your body feel better than you ever thought it could.
Trouble is, fewer and fewer people want to go to the trouble to raise high quality food for their communities every year. The 2012 US Census gives us a pretty good profile of farmers in America today, and it isn’t a very encouraging one. You’ve probably heard some of these statistics before: the number of farms in the US is decreasing every year, declining by 4.3 percent from 2007 to 2012; the average age of farmers in the US is increasing, from 57.1 years old in 2007 to 58.3 in 2012. Unfortunate enough. But what really impresses me, though, are the statistics about beginning farmers and young farmers: only 6% of new farmers in 2012 were less than 35 years old, for instance. And the number of people who do make a beginning in farming aren’t sticking with it: according to a 2012 US Census publication, “the number of new farmers who have been on their current operation less than ten years was down 20 percent from 2007.” The number of farmers who have been on their current operation for less than 5 years is down even more – a 23 percent decrease from 2007 to 2012. (Read the full article at https://www.agcensus.usda.gov/Publications/2012/Online_Resources/Highlights/Farm_Demographics/)
We need farmers, growers, food producers, people who raise real food for other people. I can’t stand by and watch young people leave the profession, or never attempt the profession because it’s too “hard” or not glamorous enough. We have not got top people working on this problem, people. And while I don’t claim for a minute to be a “top person,” I am smart, I have the will, and I have two hands that can do what needs to be done. I want to give my community the opportunity to eat the same kind of high-quality food that I want to eat. That’s “Why Farming.”\