Sponsored by Oregon Business

Planting seeds for younger farmers

| Print |  Email
Articles - March 2011
Wednesday, March 02, 2011

 

0311_Farmers_01
Farmers under the age of 35 make up only 4.2% of Oregon farmers. A 15-year project hopes to educate and train the next generation.

A new food initiative by Multnomah County hopes to bring young farmers into an industry that is starved for youth.

“Currently, farmers under the age of 35 make up [only] 4.2% of state farmers,” says Michele Knaus of the nonprofit Friends of Family Farmers.

The 15-year project aims to improve local food systems. The plan, which has more than 65 initiatives, includes the creation of a new farming incubator to educate and train new farmers.

“Multnomah County is a fantastic convener [of ideas]; we have the credibility and the energy that helps bring all the important parties to the table,” says commissioner Judy Shiprack. “The whole idea of having an incubator that would raise up a new generation of farmers came from that table.”

The program will bring together individuals interested in farming with retiring farmers looking to pass on their skills as well as looking to lease or sell their land. An apprenticeship system will teach new farmers not only the agricultural skills but also the business skills crucial to making a farm successful.

According to Knaus, up until the creation of this plan, people interested in farming were being derailed because of difficulties in finding access to land, capital or small-business loans.

“I think that it’s positive that people might be interested in this kind of work. Here is this program that shows them how to do it,” says Shiprack.

The consumer demand for locally sourced food was another inspiration for the plan.

“If food isn’t a part of our local community, we lose a lot,” says Knaus.

MAX GELBER
 

Comments   

 
Ryan McLaughlin
0 #1 Great idea, but a bit idealistic.Ryan McLaughlin 2011-03-24 12:26:16
I have seen programs like this in other states, and frankly, while well-intentione d, the plan is overly idealistic. There are ample opportunities in the US for young folks to gain experience farming. As a 25 year old, I have many friends and colleagues who have spent time as farm interns or volunteering on farms. Education in farming and even farm management is abundant, and not at all a barrier to entry.

The barrier to entry is capital. It is well known that the average age of US farmers is increasing, having recently shot past 55. Unfortunately, until 2008, the price of land was doing the same thing. However, even post-crash, land is still unattainable for most aspiring young farmers.

Think about it, to step away from a career to learn to farm requires considerable savings or financial support from family. Once you've been educated, you still need to get land. Leasing is not an economically viable option long term, and buying is cost prohibitive to most young people. In fact, the people my age that I know who are farming have gotten into it from trust funds, family support, or from having family with large parcels of unused agricultural land that was easily converted back into production.

Bottom line, young people need capital more than they need education in farming. Unless these programs incorporate some mechanism to provide them with accessible capital, the program will never yield large scale returns. What we see instead is a trickle of youth into farming and a mass exodus of farmers into retirement, leaving their land to conglomerates or development.
Quote | Report to administrator
 

More Articles

Green Rush: Cashing in on legal marijuana

March 2015
Friday, February 20, 2015
BY COURTNEY SHERWOOD | OB CONTRIBUTOR

Marijuana is big business in Oregon, and it’s about to get bigger.


Read more...

10 Oregon companies positioning themselves for growth

The Latest
Friday, March 13, 2015
vcthumbBY JACOB PALMER | OB DIGITAL NEWS EDITOR

Ten startups have secured venture capital, angel or seed funding in 2015.


Read more...

Nuclear fingerprints

March 2015
Tuesday, February 24, 2015
BY LINDA BAKER | OB EDITOR

At Oregon State University, a 21st century version of the bad dream — nuclear terrorism — is alive and well. This winter, the Department of Nuclear Physics and Radiation Health Physics created a new interdisciplinary graduate emphasis in nuclear forensics, a Sherlock Holmes-sounding program that aims to identify how and where confiscated nuclear and radiological materials were created.


Read more...

Where do Portland demographics rank among the largest 50 cities in the US?

The Latest
Tuesday, February 10, 2015
thumbpdxinperspectiveBY JACOB PALMER | OB DIGITAL NEWS EDITOR

The Portland in Perspective study, done by the City Budget Office, was released Tuesday.


Read more...

The week journalism died

Linda Baker
Sunday, February 15, 2015
deadjournalismthumbBY LINDA BAKER | OB EDITOR

As the investigation against the governor moves forward, those of us in the news business should reflect on our own potential for subverting the democratic process.


Read more...

Money Talks

March 2015
Saturday, February 21, 2015
BY LINDA BAKER | OB EDITOR

Will community banks survive the digital age? Three CEOs peer into banking's crystal ball.


Read more...

Downtime with the executive director of Greater Portland Inc.

April 2015
Thursday, March 26, 2015

Janet LaBar, Executive director, Greater Portland Inc.


Read more...
Oregon Business magazinetitle-sponsored-links-02
SPONSORED LINKS