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If There Are No New Farmers, Who Will Grow Our Food?

If There Are No New Farmers, Who Will Grow Our Food?

Programs across the country are trying to make it easier for new farmers to get started and put down roots. Here’s why: There’s only one farmer under 35 for ever six over 65. By 2030, one-quarter of America’s current farmers will retire.
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Against a backdrop of lush green mountains and swaying papaya trees, La‘amea Lunn readies his crop of carrots, kale, and eggplants for the weekly farmers market. He carefully tends his one-third acre on Oahu, Hawai‘i, preparing produce for a market stall he shares with friends—young farmers like himself, a few of whom he met when they worked neighboring plots on this land owned by the University of Hawai‘i.

At 32, Lunn has an office job with a career in restaurant kitchens behind him. He hopes to own a farm of his own, to be part of the local food movement, and to help transform the industrial food system. But taking that on now is a substantial investment, so Lunn is starting out here, in an agricultural incubator program called GoFarm Hawai‘i, where he can share resources, learn from experts, and, perhaps most importantly, join a community.

GoFarm Hawai‘i and other programs, from California to Maine, aim to soften the start for young growers. By providing access to some or all of the farming fundamentals—capital, acreage, and training—these projects try not only to help the individual farmer, but also to sustain and grow a new generation that will allow the local food movement to flourish.

“Doing it with other people helps you along in the hard times,” Lunn said. “I went into this not just for myself, but to network to help other farmers to make it easier to farm. It was a driving force.”

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