News / USA

Face of American Farmer Changing

Face of American Farmer is Changingi
X
Mike Osborne
April 18, 2014 5:29 PM
The average American farmer is now 58 years old, and farmers 65 and older are the fastest growing segment of the population. It’s a troubling trend signaling big changes ahead for American agriculture as aging farmers retire. Reporter Mike Osborne says a new report from the U.S. Census Bureau is suggesting what some of those changes might look like... and why they might not be so troubling.
Mike Osborne
The average American farmer is now 58 years old, and farmers 65 and older are the fastest growing segment of the population. It’s a troubling trend signaling big changes ahead for American agriculture as aging farmers retire. A new report from the U.S. Census Bureau is suggesting what some of those changes might look like and why they might not be so troubling.

Adrienne Gibson works a small plot of land in the rolling hills north of Knoxville, Tennessee. She’s something of a novelty in American agriculture. Female and a minority, Gibson is succeeding in an industry dominated by white men.

Gibson makes a living from her tiny operation by using the Community Supported Agriculture, or CSA, model of farming. She raises food for a handful of contract customers who pay in advance.

“We have 23 CSA customers. They subscribe to supporting the farm, and in return they get a weekly basket of vegetables from May through October," said Gibson.

New data from the U.S. Census Bureau suggests the number of minority farmers working American soil is expanding rapidly. The data also suggests U.S. farms are getting smaller.

Nate Phillips, who teaches horticulture at Middle Tennessee State University, says smaller farms are, in part, a reaction to changes in the way Americans think about their food.

“There’s growing interest in where our food is coming from, what is the food quality, things like that. I think we’ll continue to see that increase," said Phillips.

Phillips says the interest in where food comes from is also attracting more young people into farming.

“I’m seeing a lot more students from Nashville, or the cities, that are coming in that didn’t grow up around agriculture, weren’t from an agricultural background, but had that interest," he said.

Just a few years ago, hog farmer Brandon Whitt was one of those young students. His family’s thousand hectare, heavily-mechanized operation dwarfs Adrienne Gibson’s tiny farm, but he’s quickly adapting to the same customer trends. Rather than sell his hogs to commercial packers, he sells them to his neighbors.

“We actually take that one step further and actually have the meat processed and sell it directly off the farm, here through our retail store and to local restaurants and grocery stores," said Whitt.

Whitt says consumers need to know, not just how their food is produced, but about some of the challenges farmers face putting it on their tables.

“Teaching consumers about where that food comes from, and quite honestly just how hard it is to get it there at the end of the day," he said.

Nate Phillips considers it a positive development that the people who grow the food are beginning to look more like the people who consume the food.

“I think that’s great. It reflects our general society. It reflects what our communities are like around us, and I think that’s a great thing for agriculture," he said.

There's one trend that every American farmer can be pleased about. Census data shows that the value of the food they produce rose more than 25 percent in just six years.

You May Like

Ukraine Purges Interior Ministry Leadership With Pro-Russian Ties

Interior Minister Avakov says 91 people 'in positions of leadership' have been fired, including 8 generals found to have links to past pro-Moscow governments More

US Airlines Point to Additional Problems of any Ebola Travel Ban

Airline officials note that even under travel ban, they may not be able to determine where passenger set out from, as there are no direct flights from Liberia, Guinea or Sierra Leone More

Nigerian President to Seek Another Term

Goodluck Jonathan has faced intense criticism for failing to stop Boko Haram militants More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Talks to Resume on Winter Gas for Ukrainei
X
Al Pessin
October 25, 2014 4:21 PM
Ukrainian and Russian officials will meet again next week in an effort to settle their dispute over natural gas supplies that threatens to leave Ukraine short of heating fuel for the coming winter. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London the dispute is complex, and has both economic and geopolitical dimensions.
Video

Video Talks to Resume on Winter Gas for Ukraine

Ukrainian and Russian officials will meet again next week in an effort to settle their dispute over natural gas supplies that threatens to leave Ukraine short of heating fuel for the coming winter. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London the dispute is complex, and has both economic and geopolitical dimensions.
Video

Video Smugglers Offer Cheap Passage From Turkey to Syria

Smugglers in Turkey offer a relatively cheap passage across the border into Syria. Ankara has stepped up efforts to stem the flow of foreign fighters who want to join Islamic State militants fighting for control of the Syrian border city of Kobani. But porous borders and border guards who can be bribed make illegal border crossings quite easy. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video China Political Meeting Seeks to Improve Rule of Law

China’s communist leaders will host a top level political meeting this week, called the Fourth Plenum, and for the first time in the party’s history, rule of law will be a key item on the agenda. Analysts and Chinese media reports say the meetings could see the approval of long-awaited measures aimed at giving courts more independence and include steps to enhance an already aggressive and high-reaching anti-corruption drive. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
Video

Video After Decades of Pressure, Luxembourg Drops Bank Secrecy Rules

European Union finance ministers have reached a breakthrough agreement that will make it more difficult for tax cheats to hide their money. The new legislation, which had been blocked for years by countries with a reputation as tax havens, was approved last week after Luxembourg and Austria agreed to lift their vetoes. But as Mil Arcega reports, it doesn’t mean tax cheats have run out of places to keep their money hidden.
Video

Video Kobani Refugees Welcome, Turkey Criticizes, US Airdrop

Residents of Kobani in northern Syria have welcomed the airdrop of weapons, ammunition and medicine to Kurdish militia who are resisting the seizure of their city by Islamic State militants. The Turkish government, however, has criticized the operation. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from southeastern Turkey, across the border from Kobani.
Video

Video US ‘Death Cafes’ Put Focus on the Finale

In contemporary America, death usually is a topic to be avoided. But the growing “death café” movement encourages people to discuss their fears and desires about their final moments. VOA’s Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Ebola Orphanage Opens in Sierra Leone

Sierra Leone's first Ebola orphanage has opened in the Kailahun district. Hundreds of children orphaned since the beginning of the Ebola outbreak face stigma and rejection with nobody to care for them. Adam Bailes reports for VOA about a new interim care center that's aimed at helping the growing number of children affected by Ebola.

All About America

AppleAndroid