According to the USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service, between 2015 and 2016, the number of certified organic farms in the country increased 11 percent to 14,217, and the number of certified acres increased 15 percent to 5.0 million. While these gains are encouraging, we should not forget that behind these numbers are the farmers themselves doing all of the hard work to develop our food production system.
As of 2012, the last time that the USDA conducted a census, the average age of farmers in the United States was 58 year old. (The USDA conducts a census every five years; 2017 census figures are still be compiled). Over a thirty-year period, the USDA learned that the average age of our farmers continued to increase. Notably, only 6 percent of principal farm operators were under the age of 35. Thus, it goes without saying that young farmers are critical to the future of the U.S. food and agriculture sector, which is valued at nearly $1.8 trillion of the U.S. Gross Domestic Product.
At last month’s Expo East, I had the pleasure to join my friends at California Certified Organic Farmers (CCOF) at a luncheon honoring two young farmers who are making a difference in the organic farming sector and their local communities. You can learn more about these inspiring young farmers here: Organic Business Leaders Celebrate Future Organic Farmers at Expo East. And, to read more stories of Future Organic Grant Fund impact in the world, check out CCOF’s blog posts on higher education and vocational students and high school students.