Children have been leaving farms for hundreds of years. However, that abandonment of rural life has been accelerated over the past 50 years or so. In 2007, the average age of farmers in the United States was about 57 years old.
The old farmers love their land. They know every hollow and field on their properties. They know which fields have the sweetest blackberries and which fields produce the most alfalfa. They know where the deer like to graze in the cool of an autumn morning and which pond holds the biggest catfish. They can find their way across their fields without a flashlight on the darkest nights.
However, these farmers are a dying breed. Their children left the farm for the proverbial greener pastures of suburbia. Soccer, high-speed Internet, and lattes lured them from the realm of compost, seed varieties, and newborn calves. In all fairness, these kids probably watched their parents working 40-hour weeks and then working another 20 to 30 in evenings and on weekends. They wanted something a little easier for their lives. They probably loved parts of the farm, but it is not what they chose for themselves.
Who is going to carry the torch into the future? It’s obvious that farmers of both large and small properties are going to have to pass their love for farming and growing things to their children and grandchildren. Otherwise, our food future will be in the hands of impersonal corporations like Monsanto and Dupont. These corporations care more for the bottom line than the land.
We love our property. When we bought it, it was a tired, over-farmed tobacco field. No trees, no fences, no house, no barns, no ponds. We’ve learned our property like the backs of our hands. My hope is that my children will carry on in the farming tradition, if not here on our land, then on a place of their own. Even if they own a small place, they can produce some of their own products for their own families.
I hope to raise them to respect producing high-quality, tasty food, and to see that producing your own food is not just a life of drudgery.
Tomorrow, I will write a list of things that we are doing to help our whole family love the process of farming.