only thing she forgot was that WE DO WANT TO FARM and there are a lot of us.
It seems like scientists, non-profits, and even students consistently receive government grant money. Small farmers, however, rarely see Uncle Sam reach into his wallet and hand them a fat wad of dough. That discrepancy could be poised to change through a relatively new program from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA).
According to the Obama Foodorama blog, USDA Deputy Secretary Kathleen Merrigan recently announced that the agency would give $18 million in grant money to the Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program (BFRDP), an initiative that helps teach newbie farmers the skills they need to run a successful ag venture. The USDA dispersed the dough amongst 40 organizations, which will dole out advice to agricultural novices. “Beginning farmers and ranchers face unique challenges, and these efforts will help provide the training needed to ensure these producers become profitable and sustainable,” Merrigan said yesterday at Colorado’s Ollin Farm.Sustainable, profitable, — yes, farms need help becoming both of these things. But allow me to put bluntly what’s hidden in Merrigan’s professional-sounding speech: Farming is getting old — in a quickly-approaching-death’s-door kind of way — and we’ve got to find a way to sexy up the occupation.
The average age of the U.S. farmer today is 57 years old. While 57 is by no means ancient, it is approaching retirement age, especially for a manual labor-intensive field like farming. These small farmers need a next generation to pass the pitchfork to — and they’re just not finding it.
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