Recent thoughts rolling around my head and making me feel listless… statistics gleaned from the Fall 2007 Edible Portland article Help Wanted: Young Farmers
Like the declining bees, breaking up in colony collapse, several signs point to a shifting farm population.
Looking at farmers:
- US farmers are getting older (in fact, more than a quarter of U.S.
farmers are older than 65), because young farmers are getting scarcer.
A mere 5.8% of farmers are now under 35, compared to 16% in 1982.
-federal prison inmates outnumber farmers—an occupation that has now
been removed as a category from the U.S. Population Census (less than
1% of the current population are farmers)
Interestingly, organics and the resurgence of urban farmers markets
may help the focus on smaller scale farming:
18% of organic farmers are under the age of 35, compared to 5.8% in
More highlights from the Fall 2007 Edible Portland article sidebar
(sources: Organic Farming Research Foundation, USDA Agricultural
Census, Oregon Dept of Agriculture):
- Average age of US farmers: 55.3 years
- Average age of US organic farmers: 51 years
- Percentage of US Farmers 65 or older: 16.6% (1978), 26.2% (2002).
- Percentage of US Farmers 35 years or younger: 15.9% (1982), 5.8% (2002)
- Percent increase in average US farm size since 1935: 285%
(1935: 155 acres, 2002: 441 acres)
-Percent reduction in the number of US farms since 1935: 70%
(1935: 6.8 million, 2002: 2.1 million)
Barbara Kingsolver’s recent book Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: A Year of Food Life is in my life also swirled up in these facts. Her tale of a return to agrarian life takes the dream of farming to work into a family scale of producing food to live on year round. If you had the slightest curiosity about how intensive gardening (or family sized farming) could fit into your life, then this book will wet that appetite.
It’s very attractive… having that relationship of edible consequences. I find myself wanting an adult urban form of a 4H club. I want a muddy hand to take mine and show me how to do it too, step by step from the ground up.
The perfectionist in me wants to come full circle, to not only cook what I eat, but to grow it too.