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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  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...

Derek, 28, and Jake, 23, Conway in their freestall barn.
Derek, 28, and Jake, 23, Conway in their freestall barn.

Farmers Under 40: business sense and passion for young dairy farmers

Today, we continue our week-long series Farmers Under 40 with a look at the young people getting into what many consider a shriveling industry.

Dairy remains one of the biggest overall drivers of the North Country economy. Yet half the dairy farms there were twenty years ago are gone. The average age of a dairy farmer is almost 60 years old. Some years it costs more to milk a cow than you can sell the milk for.

till, young farmers are going into dairy. And as David Sommerstein reports, they're bringing a sharp business acumen and a passion to the barn.  Go to full article
Young farmers gathered near Tarrytown, NY in 2009.

Young farmers connect, ready to grow

Two years ago, about a hundred young farmers gathered in Tarrytown, New York and came up with the idea of creating an organization to support young people wanting to work the land and make a living off of it. They named the group the National Young Farmers Coalition. One of its co-founders is Severine von Tscharner Fleming. She manages Smithereen, a 100-acre farm on rented land in the Hudson Valley. We'll hear from her in just a moment.

According to the USDA, the average age of the American farmer is 57. Von Tscharner Fleming says young farmers--descendents of traditional farmers, inner-city gardeners, homesteaders, college graduates and ex-suburbanites--face tremendous structural obstacles: access to land, capital, education, and business training. She told Todd Moe that one of the principle ideas behind the coalition is that if the country wants active farms and sustainable food production in fifty years, the next generation needs help.  Go to full article
Ian and Joe Birkett with a hops vine. Photos: Angela Evancie.

Farmers under 40: new direction for an old farm

"Get big or get out" is a common wisdom in the dairy industry. And many small-scale farms have gotten out. Northern New York has half the dairy farms it did 20 years ago, and the remaining farms are generally much bigger. Some are much, much bigger.

In Vermont, the number of dairy farms dropped below 1,000 in May. But not everybody getting out of dairy is leaving farming altogether. One family operation in Ferrisburgh is repurposing the farm, and starting small. Angela Evancie has this installment of our series, Farmers Under 40.  Go to full article
Middlebury College Organic Garden. Photo: Dan Kane

Farmers Under 40: Liberal arts students try their hand at farming

Land grant schools like Cornell University have long specialized in teaching agriculture. But across the country, liberal arts colleges are adding programs about food,...  Go to full article

Farmers Under 40: National FFA no longer farmer-focused

Even as young adults are learning to farm in college, one of the most iconic organizations for kids growing up in rural, traditionally agricultural communities, Future...  Go to full article
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...  Go to full article
Joe Orefice, mid-butchery. Photo: Kate Glenn

Farmers Under 40: A farmer and a teacher, too

Our Farmers Under 40 series continues throughout the summer. Today we have a profile of Joe Orefice, an assistant professor of forestry at Paul Smith's College.
...  Go to full article
Martha Foley talks with panel of young farmers in the NCPR studio

Farmers Under 40 Call-in

Canton, NY (NCPR) What does the next generation of farmers look like? How will they change agriculture, or how will the industry change them? As a part of our summer series,...  Go to full article

Amish in Northern New York changing the face of farming

There are now about 13,000 Amish in New York--many in the North Country. A recent study from Elizabethtown College in Pennsylvania showed that's about three times the number...  Go to full article
Fiona, in headgear

Farmers Under 40: Mangles, milk and other experiments

Bali McKentley grew up in Potsdam. Her parents own St. Lawrence nurseries, a one-of-a-kind provider of cold-hardy edible plants to growers across the country. Bali helps with...  Go to full article

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