As the World’s Farm­ers Age, New Blood is Needed

Luxe Beat Magazine - - Contents - By Danielle Nieren­berg

Agri­cul­ture has an im­age prob­lem. For the ma­jor­ity of the world’s youth, agri­cul­ture isn’t an at­trac­tive av­enue of em­ploy­ment. Most youth think of it as back-break­ing la­bor with­out an eco­nomic pay-off and lit­tle room for ca­reer ad­vance­ment. This week in Des Moines, the World Food Prize has hon­ored and high­lighted youth in agri­cul­ture ed­u­ca­tion pro­grams.

With an ag­ing pop­u­la­tion of farm­ers, it’s clear that agri­cul­ture needs to at­tract more young peo­ple. This is a global chal­lenge: half of the farm­ers in the United States are 55 years or older and the av­er­age age of farm­ers in sub-sa­ha­ran Africa is around 60 years old.

The United Na­tions’ In­ter­na­tional Labour Or­ga­ni­za­tion predicts that, glob­ally, there will be 74.2 mil­lion un­em­ployed young peo­ple this year, an in­crease of 3.8 mil­lion since 2007. The agri­cul­tural sec­tor of­fers huge po­ten­tial for job cre­ation and com­mu­ni­cat­ing this to youth can rad­i­cally change their im­age of agri­cul­ture.

Youth across the world are al­ready turn­ing to farming and the food sys­tem for ca­reers. Agri­cul­ture in the 21st cen­tury means more than sub­sis­tence farming. To­day, young peo­ple can ex­plore ca­reer op­tions in per­ma­cul­ture de­sign, bio­dy­namic farming, com­mu­ni­ca­tion tech­nolo­gies, fore­cast­ing, mar­ket­ing, lo­gis­tics, qual­ity as­sur­ance, ur­ban agri­cul­ture projects, food prepa­ra­tion, en­vi­ron­men­tal sci­ences, and much more.

“In­creased ac­cess to ed­u­ca­tion and new forms of agri­cul­ture-based en­ter­prise mean that young peo­ple can be a vi­tal force for in­no­va­tion in fam­ily farming, in­creas­ing in­comes and well-be­ing for both farm­ers and lo­cal com­mu­ni­ties. Young peo­ple can trans­form the agri­cul­tural sec­tor by ap­ply­ing new tech­nolo­gies and new think­ing,” ex­plains Mark Hold­er­ness, ex­ec­u­tive sec­re­tary of the Global Fo­rum for Agri­cul­tural Re­search. Farm­ers, busi­nesses, pol­i­cy­mak­ers, and ed­u­ca­tors need to pro­mote agri­cul­ture as an in­tel­lec­tu­ally stim­u­lat­ing and eco­nom­i­cally sus­tain­able ca­reer while making jobs in the agri­cul­ture and food sys­tem at­trac­tive to youth.

U.S. Depart­ment of Agri­cul­ture Deputy Sec­re­tary Krysta Har­den re­cently an­nounced re­sources and pol­icy changes de­signed to im­prove the fi­nan­cial se­cu­rity of new and be­gin­ning farm­ers and ranch­ers, in­clud­ing a new on­line por­tal that will be a one-stop re­source where farm­ers can ex­plore the va­ri­ety of USDA ini­tia­tives de­signed to help them suc­ceed.

In Iowa, the Prac­ti­cal Farm­ers of Iowa’s be­gin­ning farm­ers’ pro­gram is grow­ing more than just crops; it is cul­ti­vat­ing the next gen­er­a­tion of farm­ers. The pro­gram helps fam­i­lies tran­si­tion their farm to be­gin­ning farm­ers by writ­ing busi­ness plans, fa­cil­i­tat­ing ac­cess to cap­i­tal, pro­vid­ing mar­ket­ing ed­u­ca­tion, offering on­line sem­i­nars, on-farm

field days, and more.

In Africa, One Acre Fund pro­vides a holis­tic set of ser­vices to help small-scale farm­ers and new agri­cul­tur­al­ists suc­ceed by dis­tribut­ing feed and fer­til­izer on credit, offering train­ing, and fa­cil­i­tat­ing mar­ket ac­cess. By 2020, they hope to not only rep­re­sent Africa’s largest net­work of small­holder farm­ers but to also pro­vide ser­vices to at least 1 mil­lion farming fam­i­lies.

The Young Pro­fes­sion­als for Agri­cul­tural De­vel­op­ment is an in­ter­na­tional net­work of young farm­ers con­tribut­ing to in­no­va­tive agri­cul­tural de­vel­op­ment. The net­work is shap­ing the fu­ture of agri­cul­ture by pro­vid­ing re­sources and tools for the next gen­er­a­tion of farm­ers to be suc­cess­ful. Mem­bers can at­tend events, dis­cus­sions, work­shops, and con­tests; find a men­tor; and raise aware­ness of agri­cul­tural ca­reers.

The In­ter­na­tional Fund for Agri­cul­tural De­vel­op­ment Ru­ral Youth Tal­ents Pro­gram in South Amer­ica is pub­li­ciz­ing and shar­ing knowl­edge learned from ru­ral youth agri­cul­ture pro­grams. Their goal is to es­tab­lish and strengthen net­works of youth in­volved in food and agri­cul­ture.

With the growth of th­ese and sev­eral other projects and re­sources, we can make agri­cul­ture not only “cool” but also eco­nom­i­cally and en­vi­ron­men­tally sus­tain­able for the world’s youth.

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