How to succeed as a new farmer
The average age of the American farmer was last documented to be 58.3 years old, and is steadily rising. For years, younger people have been leaving their rural farming communities and heading into cities. But recently, for the first time since 1982, it seems as if the younger generation is becoming interested in growing food again - even within cities. In his most recent interview for AGRITECTURE, Henry Gordon-Smith sat down with Dr. Sonny Ramaswamy, director of the National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA), to discuss the challenges that new farmers face, and the tools and resources available to best help them succeed.
"Success in life, and agriculture, is all about networking," says Dr. Ramaswamy. The first thing new farmers should do is visit extension.org to link up with their local extension service. Extension services are available in every county within the US, Dr. Ramaswamy notes, and they each have an actual person(s) whose role is to help local farmers with their problems and questions, and connect them to resources. You can also use the extension service to connect with other farmers in your area - they can basically open up a whole local network for you.
"Always go in with the attitude: I'm here to learn" - is another piece of advice that Dr. Ramaswamy has to offer for farmers of all ages and backgrounds. There is an infinite amount to learn when it comes to growing food, and it is always prudent to assume that other people have something they can teach you. Millennials have a unique passion for solving societal issues, Dr. Ramaswamy notes, and that passion combined with an attitude of learning is a "phenomenal combination."