great piece on dinner bell farm
California's young farmers break traditional mold
by Stacy Finz, Chronicle Staff Writer. Sunday, December 25, 2011
The average age of a farmer in California is creeping toward 60, and the California Department of Food and Agriculture is trying to attract newcomers to work the land.
The need is especially acute, given that experts are forecasting that the world will have to double its food supply to keep up with a booming population - growing from 7 billion people to 9 billion by 2050. California is a significant player in feeding the globe, providing 12 percent of the nation's agriculture exports.
Farming also is a $37.5 billion business in California, employing 800,000 people. With the average age of the primary farm operator now 58 - nearly 20 percent are 70 or older - it's crucial that the state's farms and ranches get fresh blood, said Karen Ross, California's agriculture secretary.
"We are leaders," she said. "Being one of only five Mediterranean climates in the world, we produce the food - fruits, vegetables and nuts - that have the greatest health benefits."
But how do you convince people that back-breaking work, risky conditions and low profit yields are a good career move?