Fresh & Local
The Growing Number of Young Farmers, Part 2
Column #24, Published Mar 2nd, 2012
There is currently a food revolution going on, and locally grown food is making permanent inroads into the food we eat.
I have sometimes wondered what our families really think about our decision a little over a year ago to farm full time. Well, except for my mother-in-law. I know how she feels. She thinks that Terry and I have taken leave of our senses. I have wondered about everyone else, though.
With that in mind, Terry’s older brother Chris has been emailing me links to interesting articles about farming. Back on January 13, I wrote a column about the growing number of young farmers. That column was based on an Associated Press article that Chris sent me. The AP article suggested that one of the reasons young entrepreneurs are going into farming is they find the corporate world stifling and see no point in sticking it out when there is little job security.
The articles Chris sends me have been good and I’m glad that he sends them. I was just curious why someone who works in information technology and professes to hate yard work would be spending so much time reading articles about farming.
Then this week, Chris announced that he is exploring the possibility of growing grapes for a nearby winery. I have to smile, and I’m now fairly certain I know how Chris feels about our decision.
In the interest of full disclosure, you now know where I get some of my background material for these columns, including this one.
In my January 13 column, I wrote about how for the first time in more than 100 years, the number of farmers in the U.S. may be increasing. There will be a new agricultural census taken this year, and it is likely to show that large numbers of people - including people in their 20s and 30s – are going into farming.
Chris recently sent me a link to an article in the U.K. Telegraph that suggests that the same thing is happening in Japan. The article, titled “Japan's urban youth swaps fashion for farming,” provides evidence that the interest in farming among young people in Japan is increasing, and for some of the same reasons as in the U.S.
The idea that the rising interest in locally-grown food might be an international trend had never occurred to me.
Japan is the world’s second largest economy. It is a largely high-tech economy known for their cars and electronics. Japan now imports 60% of their food. Incredibly, more than 70 per cent of Japan's working farmers are aged 60 or older, and nearly half are over 70. Only 8.5 per cent are aged 39 or younger.
Here is a shocker. According to The Telegraph article, over 1,500 square miles of farmland in Japan have been abandoned and laid waste throughout the nation. In 88 per cent of cases, the owners said they were too old to work the fields.
The article provides an example of Kaori Nukui, 31, who worked for Tokyo consulting and public relations firms for seven years, and then decided she wanted to start her own business. She decided that there were opportunities in farming. She grew up on a farm, and finally decided, "When I thought of starting a business myself, I realized my parents had already built a good foundation for me."
The food revolution appears to be international.
Bryant Osborn and his wife Terry own Corvallis Farms in Culpeper County. His column on fresh and locally grown food runs every Friday. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org