Sustainable America Blog

Growing a New Crop of Farmers

Just 25 miles north of New York City lies an idyllic farm with a world class restaurant. The farm is The Stone Barns Center For Food and Agriculture, the restaurant, Blue Hill at Stone Barns. On this unique farm you might see farmers cooking and chefs farming. Bringing appreciation to the food we eat and how it is grown is central to The Stone Barn Center’s philosophy.

Stone Barns Center for Food and Agriculture in Pocantico Hills, NY. Photo: Annabel Braithwaite for Belathée Photography

The center’s mission is to create a healthy and sustainable food system that benefits us all. With this goal in mind, the center has recognized the need for a new generation of farmers in the US, where the average age of farmers is 57.

One of the ways Stone Barns Center is working to help young farmers, and in turn stop the loss of farmers, farmland and rural economies, is through their Growing Farmers Initiative.

“Traditionally, farming knowledge was passed down from generation to generation. Today, many young people entering the field did not grow up on farms and are eager to learn directly from seasoned farmers. Stone Barns makes this possible for young farmers during every season of the year, offering paid, full-time apprenticeships to young people who are committed to working the land. Farm apprentices are given real responsibilities and gain practical knowledge on everything it takes to run a farm. Apprentices also benefit from networking opportunities with other farmers, apprentices and interns through weekly visits to other farms in the Hudson Valley.”

An exciting addition to the center’s Growing Farmers Initiative is their Young Farmers Conference. Young farmers (and by young they also mean new farmers of all ages) convene at the Stone Barns Center each December to attend workshops, exchange ideas, eat, and dance.

“Workshops are taught by seasoned farmers, and topics have included securing farmland, financing a farm, and launching a grass-based dairy farm. Recognizing that farming is by nature a solitary profession, our conferences and workshops provide invaluable opportunities for young farmers to share ideas and learn from each other.”

Stone Barns Center is planting the seeds for the future of farming. This year, more than 250 young farmers are expected to attend, and over 50 workshops that address soil science, technical skills, agricultural policy, farm business management, marketing, and more are planned.

The Young Farmers Conference runs from December 12 – 14, 2012.

The Stone Barns Center runs workshops year-round. See what workshops are coming up here.

Learn more about The Stone Barns Center For Food and Agriculture in this lovely video.

[The Stone Barns Center For Food & Agriculture]

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By the Numbers

Currently 50 million households suffer from food insecurity, meaning that family members cannot always meet their basic food needs.

10 million people a year could be fed through the recovery of just one-fifth of food waste.

Only 2% of food waste is composted or otherwise recycled—62% of paper is recycled.

Consumers throw out about 40% of the fresh and frozen fish they buy.

The U.S. produced 208 pounds of meat per person in 2009—60% more than Europe.

Low income commuters spend a much higher proportion of their wages on gas—8.6% versus 2.1% at $4 per gallon.

Food prices rose 35-40 percentage points between 2002–2008.

Americans consume 25% of the world’s produced oil, but our nation holds less than 3% of the world’s proven oil reserves.

The International Energy Agency says greenhouse gas emissions rose 3.2% last year, with a 9.3% increase in China offsetting declines in the US and EU.

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