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

India PM Modi's party distances itself from religious conversions

BJP under fire for being slow to rein in hardline affiliate groups allegedly trying to promote a Hindu-dominant agenda by luring Muslims and Christians to convert to Hinduism More

Anti-Whaling Group Found in Contempt of Court

Radical environmentalists who threw acid and smoke bombs at Japanese whalers in the waters off Antarctica continue their campaign to disrupt Japan's annual whale hunt More

UN's Ban Urges End to Discrimination Against Ebola Workers

Ban was speaking in Guinea on the second day of a whistle-stop tour aimed at thanking healthcare workers of the countries at the heart of the epidemic More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Sudan School Becomes Target of Aerial Attacksi
X
December 19, 2014 12:45 AM
The school dropout rate is at an all-time high in Sudan's South Kordofan state because many schools have been destroyed during the three-year civil war between the government and SPLA-N rebel forces. Adam Bailes visited Sudan's Nuba Mountains' region and reports many children are simply too scared to go to school
Video

Video Sudan School Becomes Target of Aerial Attacks

The school dropout rate is at an all-time high in Sudan's South Kordofan state because many schools have been destroyed during the three-year civil war between the government and SPLA-N rebel forces. Adam Bailes visited Sudan's Nuba Mountains' region and reports many children are simply too scared to go to school
Video

Video VOA Reporter Tours Devastated Peshawar School

Islamist militants wearing military uniforms and strapped with explosives attacked a military run school Tuesday in the northwestern Pakistani city of Peshawar. At least 141 people were killed in the horrific attack, most of them young students. VOA reporter Ayaz Gul visited the devastated school and attended the funeral of the principal who courageously tried to save her students from the deadly attack.
Video

Video Nigerians Fleeing Boko Haram Languish in Camp Near Capital

In its five-year effort to impose Islamic law in northeastern Nigeria, the Boko Haram extremist group has killed thousands of people and forced hundreds of thousands to flee. Some of those who ran for their lives now live in squalor on the edges of the capital, Abuja. Chris Stein reports for VOA.
Video

Video Putin Says Russian Economy Will Emerge Stronger

Russian President Vladimir Putin has said his country's sinking economy will not only recover but also become stronger, despite falling oil prices and Western sanctions over Ukraine. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports.
Video

Video Detained Turkish Journalists Follow Teachings of US-Based Preacher

The Turkish government’s jailing of critical journalists has sparked international condemnation and is being seen as an effort to undermine the followers of an ailing Turkish preacher based in the United States. VOA religion reporter Jerome Socolovsky has more.
Video

Video ‘Anti-Islamization’ Marches Increase Tensions In Germany

Anti-immigrant rallies in Germany have been building in recent weeks, peaking Monday night in the city of Dresden where tens of thousands of people turned out to demonstrate against what they call the ‘Islamization’ of the West. Germany has offered asylum to more Syrian refugees than any other country, and this appears to have set off the protests. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Aceh Rebuilt Decade After Tsunami, But Scars Remain

On December 26, 2004 there was an earthquake in the Indian Ocean so powerful it caused the Earth’s axis to wobble a few centimeters. Onshore on the island of Sumatra, the resulting tsunami was devastating. A decade later, VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from Banda Aceh, Indonesia, where although there is little remaining evidence of the physical devastation, the psychological scars among survivors remain.
Video

Video Refugees Living in Kenya Long for Peace in the Home Countries

Kenya is host to numerous refugees seeking safe haven from conflict. Immigrants from Somalia face challenges in their new lives in Kenya. Ahead of International Migrants Day (December 18) Lenny Ruvaga has more for VOA News from the Kenyan capital.

All About America

AppleAndroid