A silver lining to this difficult economy where jobs are scarce is that it’s resulting in a strong move back to small family farms across the US.
And they’re not just any farms – many are being started by people who want to provide fresh, local, organic food to people as a counterweight to conventional, increasingly GMO farms by big agriculture.
"Farming has become an incredibly sexy topic and occupation for young people," Ferd Hoefner, policy director for the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition told Reuters. "I’ve never seen anything like it in my experience."
These farmers express concern about the damaging effects of pesticides, overuse of chemicals, and use of GMOs, and that the nation’s food supply is controlled by a handful of corporations that often put profit ahead of consumer health.
And they’re disgusted by the horrific way animals are treated in the enormous feedlots that produce chicken, pork and beef.
"The whole food and farming system is so out of whack," Dan Pugh told Reuters. "We want better and we can do something to help other people eat better."
These farmers are behind the landmark lawsuit against Monsanto we reported on last week.
USDA Supports Small Farms
Although many are angry by the USDA’s support of GMOs entering the food system in ever-greater quantities, appointing many Monsanto lobbyists to high positions, they are also supporting the rise in small farms.
USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack has set a goal of 100,000 new
farms in the next few years, targeting youth, women, Hispanics, American Indians and returning military veterans.
He hopes to reverse the trend of an aging farming population – more than a third of farmers are over 65 – and a decline in rural populations.
There are currently 450,000 beginning farms – defined as less than 10 years old – accounting for 21% of the 2.1 million family farms in the US, reports Reuters.
Last year, the USDA launched the "Start2Farm" website which offers help in starting a farm and accessing supportive programs.
The 2008 Farm Bill greatly expanded assistance to beginning farmers, including loans, commodity payments, conservation payments, and training programs. Since then, the number of loans has nearly doubled to 15,000.
Because of USDA grants to universities, they offer a wide range of courses from how to locate farmland to specific topics like beekeeping.
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