Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Motivating a New Generation of Farmers

I spoke tonight to the Future Farmers of America chapter at Del Oro High School in Loomis.  After I talked about our farm and about the Placer Ag Futures Project, I asked the kids to tell me what would motivate them to become farmers.  I asked the same question to a group of FFA members at Bear River High School three or four years ago.  Interestingly, I got the same answers both times - more money and more information.  In other words, some kids wanted to make more money than small-scale farming generally provides.  Other kids wanted more information about the fact that small-scale farming was actually a career.

I think this suggests several courses of action for those of us who are worried about where our food comes from.  First, our society generally places very low value on the production of food and fiber.  Our nation spends the lowest percentage of gross income on food of any developed country.  Food, and the way it is produced, is just not very important to many people.  We need to change this - there is nothing more fundamental to life than what we eat, and yet we're not willing to vote for good food with our dollars.

Second, those of us who do farm have not done a good job of educating those who will replace us.  In part, this is related to the first problem - we tend to tell young people that they need to choose another career because they won't be able to make a living farming.  The issue quickly becomes more complex, however; we're also not very good at sharing our knowledge - we feel threatened by competition, perhaps, or feel that our work doesn't take much skill.

I'm interested in what others think about these questions!  What do we need to do TODAY to make certain we have good food TOMORROW?

1 comment:

  1. I agree, these are significant obstacles and they mirror the obstacles felt by the young people who want to farm. How will we get into it without land or money? How will we make enough money? Where is the information and who will teach us?

    Speaking publicly about these issues and hosting apprentices is a great way to help though!