I’m sure this is a surprise to no one at this point, but after a few months of being a VISTA my future plans are all about farming. It isn’t just me either. There’s a whole generation (ours) that’s been raised in cities and suburbs as the country has moved away from family farming and towards large factory farms. This hasn’t just had an effect on where our food comes from – it’s also HUGELY affected where our farmers are coming from. Young people interested in agriculture today are coming from the generation that hasn’t been raised on farms and has no background in agriculture. Farming is in the middle of a shift from an inheritance to a calling. How cool is that?!
Right along with the change in the nature of farmers comes a shift in the nature of farming. You know how when you’re writing a paper you can think it’s totally great – right up until that moment your friend edits it for you and tears it to pieces? That same things is happening to agriculture right now. New farmers from different backgrounds and experiences are entering the agricultural industry and coming up with new ideas, business models and marketing strategies to make the small and medium sized non-industrial farm back on the map. Farmers are moving away from tractors and towards draft horses – and tweeting about it. They are building restaurants that source most of their menu from the land it sits on. They are building educational programs and community gardens and getting people involved and invested in the food they eat. It’s delicious activism – where can you go wrong??
Since I spend my days researching this stuff it’s easy to get excited about. It’s hard sometimes to sit in the office and look out my tiny window into the greenhouse and watch everybody else get to play in the dirt – but the stuff I’m learning in here is valuable too. Since modern farm trends are all about innovation and thinking beyond the food we grow it’s amazing to be part of program development. I get to talk to a lot of people who come through the farm for tours and workshops and I’m always amazed and how things that have become so everyday to me amaze others. It helps to put in perspective not only how important farm (and food) education is on a societal level, but also the way it can help an individual shift their understanding of food and the ways they interact with the world. When I run into people after they’ve been through the farm for a program they always tell me things like ‘I tried those greens – they were so good!’ or they talk about how they are buying organic now or that they want to start a garden.
I love my job – but at the same time I kind of can’t wait for August so I can start working on farms and learning as much as I can about growing. I’m hoping to join the Peace Corps for agriculture or to go WWOOFing somewhere awesome (New Zealand!). Till then…go Freshwise! 🙂