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Wellspring Seasonal Newsletter - Summer 2013
Young Farmers and Agricultural Land
Despite the fact that farmers make up only 1% of the U.S. population, the good food movement is inspiring many young people to choose a career in agriculture. For each farmer under the age of 35, there are six over 65. While the average age of an American farmer is 57, for organic growers the age is 34. These young people come from farm and non-farm backgrounds.
Over the next 20 years, 70% of the nation’s farmland will change hands.“Corporate control over food and agriculture production has intensified. Out of a total of less than 3 million farmers, a little over 190,000 of them produce 75% of our food. “(The Cultivator, Summer 2013) If we want food, we need farmers.
Rather than be parceled up for subdivisions or sold to huge corporate farms, it is in the best interest of
our nation to keep farmland in sustainable agriculture and make it available to aspiring young farmers.
Some retiring farmers make it possible for young people to get a foothold by growing food on parts of
their land. Others buy land outright and lease it to the young farmers to help them get started. Three of our past garden staff are farming on a farm nearby.
Wellspring is keenly interested in helping our interns and farm managers continue farming once they
leave our farm. The biggest challenge to young farmers is access to land and capital. Wellspring is planning to host a “Land Summit” this late fall for land owners to learn how they might make their land
available thru sales, rent, gifting, etc. If you wish to learn more contact our Executive Director Angie at
Will the next generation of farmers take back the land to renew American agriculture? The National
Young Farmers’ Coalition (NYFC) is a network of young farmers, ranchers and supporters fighting to
create opportunity for young people in sustainable agriculture. Urging Congress to provide a fair Farm
Bill could help beginning farmers as well.
Farm Bill Fatigue
For the second time in two years the U.S. House of Representatives has failed to pass their version of the Farm Bill. The Senate’s bipartisan Farm Bill included many reforms to farm programs, crop insurance and the removal of direct subsidies. It retained many of the programs that have been beneficial and effective for organic and sustainable farmers over the past 5 years.
There was no funding in the House bill for organic certification cost share. The Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) was not even heard on the House floor. In the 2012–13 version, after months of work by many advocacy groups, a promising Farm Bill was emerging but was hi-jacked in a New Year “fiscal cliff” budget deal which disposed of programs for new or minority farmers, rural job programs, renewable energy, specialty crop and organic research and organic farming. Instead it protected every last cent of commodity subsidies.
“Deciding how America will nourish itself and sustain its farms would seem a top priority. Yet, as the
Farm Bill demonstrates, sustainably grown, healthy food and livable incomes for farmers and workers
remain an afterthought in a process controlled almost entirely by agribusiness and a handful of farm-state legislators. Despite strong public opinion supporting local food, farmer’s markets, organic agriculture, food workers’ rights and access to fresh produce, agribusiness and commodity interests continue to dominate food and farm policy.” (Food First Backgrounder, summer 2013)
So where do things stand? The Farm Bill under which we are now operating may be extended but
without many of the visionary programs from the 2008 bill. These were programs that promoted organic agriculture, supported opportunities for beginning farmers, enhanced economic development of rural areas and offered reforms to programs that provide huge subsidies to large farmers or those who do not farm at all.
All of us who like to eat food ought to contact our Congress people and urge them to re-introduce a bill that would boost economic growth, create jobs, protect the environment, and provide healthy food.
Farm to School Program Partnerships
In pursuit of educating youth on the importance of eating healthy, local food, Wellspring has partnered
with both Kewaskum and Grafton Elementary schools, piloting initiatives to engage and connect students with where their food comes from and to increase their consumption of fresh produce.
These “farm to school” programs involve fresh produce tastings in the school cafeterias, educational
classroom visits from farmers, construction of school gardens and class field trips to Wellspring organic farm.
This coming school year, Wellspring is offering Farmer-classroom visits to other schools within the region. During an hour-long visit, students learn about healthy eating and how plants grow, asking questions to the visiting farmer and, of course, enjoying a snack of fresh produce.
If you are interested in setting up a visit for your classroom or homeschool group, or would like more
information on the program, please contact Wellspring’s Education Coordinator at (847) 946 −5565