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Series: Farmers Under 40

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The demo- graphics of farming have been grim for decades. But young farmers are part of a countertrend.

It's hard to pin down the numbers. The last agriculture census was almost five years ago. It includes a familiar story: over the last 20 years, the North Country lost 50% of its dairy farms. But the total number of farms has dropped by just 10%.

It is relatively new alternative farms--vegetable, fruit, and livestock--that are filling the gap.

Many are owned by young people. 40% of all farms in Franklin and Essex counties, dairy included, are owned by beginning farmers. Beginning farmers own 30% of the farms in St. Lawrence and Clinton counties, 25% in Jefferson and Lewis counties.

In our series Farmers Under 40, we're hearing from farmers of all kinds, big and small, from traditional dairy, to alternative small farms. But they're all young, and most of them college-educated.

From NCPR Blogs:

The New York Times “Room For Debate” opinion pages asks whether American farms can survive without illegal labor. Economists, activists and policy researchers all weigh in. And so does Benjamin Shute, co-owner of Hearty Roots Community...
No, this isn’t another new regular feature here at The Inbox, but I thought I send your way a couple of interesting pieces about food to send you into your BBQ and picnic-filled weekend. NPR’s Dan Charles really nails the heart of one of...
NPR’s Morning Edition aired a story this morning that fits right in with our Farmers Under 40 series. Hardwick, Vermont, is the town, according to author Ben Hewitt, that “food saved.”  Local food, that is, and the smal farms,...
Apropos of our series on the broad range of young farmers in this region, a friend sent a very interesting set of photos this morning, which Google tracked down to a Time.com  photo essay, from the book Hungry Planet, showing what families from...
We’re focusing this month on Farmers Under 40, so it was perfect timing to point out this article. Federal Ag Secretary Tom Vilsack has said the nation needs 100,000 new farmers, and some folks think Congress will need to tinker with the Farm...

Todd and Michelle Asselin raise free range livestock and work day jobs.
Todd and Michelle Asselin raise free range livestock and work day jobs.

Farmers Under 40: Big and Small, We Need 'Em All

There's no doubt farming's a volatile industry. With grain and gas prices constantly fluctuating, and more and more consumers searching for low prices, it's no wonder the number of farms has dropped. Last summer, NCPR traveled the North Country looking for the next generation of farmers. This week, we're listening back to some of the stories we found.

The key to farming since the 1970s has been to go big with a few cash crops, search out efficiency, utilize technology and produce more from each acre.

Some young farmers want to do it their own way. They want to stay small, avoid mainstream distribution and maybe grow organic. These new farmers face different challenges from their traditional predecessors, but they can't avoid the economics. Steve Knight tackled the knotty subject of farm economics.  Go to full article

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