Talking ’bout a new generation

July 18, 2009 at 3:11 pm 1 comment

Two national publications recently called attention to the new generation of young sustainable farmers cropping up  near urban markets where conscientious consumers crave local, fresh produce.  Naturally, North Carolina got its share of attention, where young farmers have been spreading like Kudzu. 

USA Today quoted Tom Philpott,  who blogs about food and ag policy for Grist and farms in the Blue Ridge Mountains of western N.C.,  and Trace Ramsey, who cultivates the soil with four other “guerilla agrarians of the information age” at Circle Acres, a CSA in Silk Hope. Check out his blog,  Cricket Bread.

Philpott says it’s not surprising that college-educated young folks want to go into sustainable agriculture, despite the  long hours, hard physical  work and modest financial  rewards. “Small-scale farming is management-intensive.It’s an incredibly intellectual  exercise, but you’re also getting your hands in the dirt — that’s why it’s so attractive. There’s a hunger for that.”

Ramsey, a former IT manager who graduated with a biology degree from State University of New York-Genesee, has a full-time job and farms during the evenings and weekends.  He and his friends saved for six years before they bought their land.

Trace also coordinates “crop mobs,” where growers  put out the word that they could use some help building a deer fence , chicken coop or other physically demanding chore. Fifty friends might show up, work all day, share a big dinner and celebrate into the night.

Read the USA Today story here.

Mule Magazine features nine pages of first-person stories and photos about six North Carolina farms with young croppers, including: George O’Neal at Lilfarm in Union Grove, Cov DeRamus who works with veteran farmers Alex and Betsy Hitt at Peregrine in Chatham County, Elise Margoles of Elysian Fields in Cedar Grove, Keena McDonald of Duck Run Farm who leases land from veterans Cathy and Mike Perry at Periwinkle Farm near Chapel Hill, Natasha McCurley and Simon Rose of Small Potatoes Farm in White Cross,and Stuart and Alice White at Bluebird Meadows in Hurdle Mills, who learned from long-time grower Ken Dawson at Maple Springs Garden. 

The photos and interviews are by Alix Blair, a young writer and sometime farmhand who enjoyed getting to know growers at the Carrboro Farmers Market.  Read the stories,beginning on page 22 of Issue #6 here.

According to the USDA Census of Agriculture, there are about 2.2 million farms in the U.S., including 300,000 established since 2002. The new ones tend to be small, diversified operations run by younger farmers who also have jobs off the farms.

Entry filed under: Sustainable Farming. Tags: .

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1 Comment Add your own

  • 1. Time to sign up with CSA farmers « sustainable grub  |  January 30, 2010 at 2:32 pm

    […] Keenan McDonald (Duck Run Farm) recently moved to the edge of Pittsboro. She’s one of the new generation of sustainable growers recently featured in a national magazine. What’s most unusual about […]


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