There was a recent conference at Big Sur in California where founders of the sustainable agriculture and organic farming movements gathered to share their stories and discuss how and who to share their legacies with.
Dubbed “Agrarian Elders” the dozen or so farmers lamented that despite their efforts, massive single crop farming interests have been prohibiting cost effective opportunities for smaller scale farmers. These small scale farmers used to be called just farmers way back when?
“Michael Ableman, a farmer and one of the event’s organizers, said the concerns were part of a much larger issue, a “national emergency,” in his words. Farmers are aging. The average age of the American farmer is 57, and the fastest-growing age group for farmers is 65 and over, according to the Census Bureau.” (NY times)
The same numbers apply here in Delta, and the challenge has always been to try to educate and encourage young people to develop an interest in farming.
The family farm that built the foundation for growth and development of North America as we know it today is changing. The complexities of farming are daunting for every generation of farmer as are the pitfalls of the market place. The cost of land and equipment and the prospect of sheer hard work are proving to be problematic for new potential farmers who consider entry.
As the average age of farmers in North America rises, solutions for agricultural production need to be found.
The “Agrarian Elders” and their ideals are being compromised by several thousand acre “organic farmers” who sell tomatoes, raspberries and strawberries to us all year round in plastic clam shell containers.
The ‘Elders’ and many that have followed in their footsteps have found it increasingly difficult to make a living off the land by offering dozens of varieties of fruits and vegetables from their farms to local consumers. The paradoxes of growing food abound, and the convergence of so many issues is making the simple idea of growing food a Rubik’s cube within our society right now. Greenhouse or field, it is all food, and it is all plainly difficult to talk about.
Farming, big or small scale is an intrinsically good idea. That is a simple truth that cannot be denied. Window-box to backyard… it does not matter.
One of the main issues that all observers tend to agree on is that education around farming is key. In fact, education and engagement of young entrants to farming is a “Desired Outcome” within the Corporation of Delta’s Agriculture plan…..
“Farming is attractive and accessible, providing a successful alternative career for younger people and new entrants.”
The same sensibilities are evident in the Provincial Agriculture Plan spearheaded by former MLA Val Roddick.
Farming in Delta is front and center on so many levels… has been and always will be. It is encouraging to see that the Delta School District recognizes the plight of the Agrarian Elders and is putting education front and center in its schools to ensure that the local “Young Agrarian” movement continues to gain momentum.
It is still only the middle of February but you should be glad to know that hundreds of elementary school children are ‘planning to plant’, creating their diagrams for plantings at their school neighborhood farms via their Project Pickle program.
Congrats Delta! A fine example you are indeed!