NYFC welcomes guest blogger Siri Simons for today’s post. We are pleased to spotlight this innovative project to build awareness of struggles of beginning farmers and ranchers through a cross-country farm-touring bike trip. Got a similar project in the works? Let us know, we’d love to publicize it!
In the final moments of this month’s negotiations regarding the Farm Bill extension, funding for beginning farm programs was taken off the table. Now, young farmers will have to wait to hear the fate of a resource that makes the dream of owning a farm a reality. This is just one example of the obstacles facing beginning farmers. To support to the needs of individuals interested in farming for the first time, we need more than federal policy. We need to take a creative, multi-faceted approach to the challenge facing our country—that the average age of farmers in the US is 55 and on the rise.
US Deputy Secretary of Agriculture, Kathleen Merrigan has gone as far as calling the challenge an “epidemic,” and has hit the road herself to encourage young people to consider agricultural careers. Across the country, organizations like the National Young Farmers Coalition are springing up to address the barriers young and sustainable farmers face to launching their farm businesses. Among the many avenues available for reaching young people, the Fresh Forks project is interested in three: bicycles, the internet, and high school classrooms.
Fresh Forks is a bike trip that will take four riders from the Mississippi River Delta in Louisiana to its headwaters in Minnesota. Along the ride, we’ll stay at and interview youth-managed farms, host four community conversations to discuss youth’s visions for the future of their food system, and publicize our experiences through a blog, social media, and later a high school curriculum. Sharing the models of youth-managed farms on our blog and in the communities we visit will show other beginning farmers how their work can create a successful, sustainable business. By traveling up the Mississippi River, we hope to share stories of common challenges to facilitate connections between farmers along our route and help envision what the future of our food system should look like.
Our route isn’t complete yet. Fresh Forks is currently seeking farms to stay at, interview, and even work on for a day or two between May and July of 2013. If your farm is in Louisiana, Mississippi, Arkansas, Tennessee, Kentucky, Missouri, Illinois, Iowa or Minnesota and near the Mississippi River, please consider participating as a host. We are excited about discussing real barriers and promoting successful beginning farms on our blog and other media outlets. This project is truly about putting a face to farming for young people who haven’t considered it before or aren’t sure they have what it takes to farm.
For more information, visit our website at www.freshforks.org. Rider application available at: http://www.freshforks.org/blog/. Farmers interested in being featured on the Fresh Forks blog may email firstname.lastname@example.org.