Who’s Going to Fill Their Shoes

The issues facing the future of small scale sustainable farming in the United States are countless. Many of these center around the fact that the average age of today’s farmer is 57. As retirement beckons for a large percentage of the farming workforce, many are left to wonder who will fill their shoes. The New York Times recently posted an article on a gathering of “agrarian elders” that took place at the Esalen Institute in Big Sur, California. These veteran farmers joined together in Big Sur to discuss concerns about the current state of sustainable farming and its future.

While the farmers here were proud of their anti-establishment beginnings, their movement has since gone mainstream, and organic farming has grown tremendously…

So the grandfathers and grandmothers of organic farming should be joyous, but they are not. Their principles of local, seasonal fruits and vegetables have been replaced in many cases by year-round clamshelled tomatoes for Walmart, Target and other stores. Some of today’s organic farmers have thousands of acres of single crops, which are flown to supermarket shelves, where they are sold at lower prices than many small organic farmers can afford to sell their produce.

The articles discusses the background of a number of the farmers, the economics of sustainable farming, and why many of these farmer’s children have no desire to carry on the family trade. An interesting look at the current landscape of sustainable farming.

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