As more and more young people drift toward cities, it begs an important question: Who are our farmers? What does the next generation of farmers in America look like? At worst, farming seemed to be a dying industry. Perhaps surprisingly, this isn't entirely the case. While young people aren't replacing the exact number of farmers we've lost, there's been a significant growth of people under the age of 35 moving to rural areas to farm. That's right: Millennials are doing their part in keeping farms alive. Notably, this increase in farmers could make the industry more organic and help improve local food growth.
The northeasten part of the United States has especially seen an uptick in younger people farming. There’s been a 2.2 percent increase nationally in farmers under the age of 35 between 2007 and 2012 according to the US Department of Agriculture -- . It’s also been increasing in the rural areas of New Hampshire and Vermont.
Liz Whitehurst’s move from the office to a three-acre farm at 30 years of age was highlighted by . She went to Upper Marlboro, Maryland, after deciding to leave her nonprofit jobs and joins the movement of millenials to rural farmland. Called “Owl’s Nest,” Whitehurst bought her farm from a retiring farmer two years ago.
She opted to farm organically, limiting her use of pesticides and fertilizer. Instead, she rotates her fields that grow cabbages, peppers, salad greens, and tomatoes. She and two other friends harvest the crops and sell them to local restaurants and farmers markets to make ends meet. As she notes, money is a little tighter than it used to be, and there aren’t traditional benefits like she had at her nonprofit job.
Even though Whitehurst had to give up certain qualities of life, she enjoys the instant gratification on farming. “I wanted to have a positive impact, and that just felt very distant in my other jobs out of college,” she told the . “In farming, on the other hand, you make a difference. Your impact is immediate.”