Today, I am taking a slightly different approach to the topic of sustainable agriculture. Sustainability doesn't just refer to the environmental effects of an industry. The industry must also be able to sustain itself, and the current number of farmers in the United States and their average age shows the farming industry may not be able to sustain itself without an influx of younger farmers in greater numbers.
The USDA has noted the average age of farmers is 55, with some states having a higher average age than that. There are three times as many farmers over the age of 65 than farmers under the age of 35. Why is the average age of farmers so high? There is no one to take over the farm.
Why are young people not going into farming anymore? Economically, it can be a difficult start-up process. The USDA has been offering programs and loans for younger farmers in order to garner more interest in the area. They hope young people will be encouraged to build a small farm producing food and selling local and/or organic produce. FFA has also expanded its membership into urban and suburban areas, and hope to interest and recruit people from outside farming communities.
With both the USDA and FFA encouraging and recruiting younger people into farming, perhaps this area of agriculture will be able to become more sustainable both economically and environmentally.