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Farming and the Local Food Scene: My first couple months as a farm hand

The ability to work part-time on a farm has granted me time for lots of reflection—mostly on how young farmers are simultaneously learning and changing the face of food production in our nation. I’d assume this time is usually not available to a full-time farmer until the end of the farming season, and I feel very lucky to be able to get my feet wet a bit before diving into a full-time position. During these past couple months, I’ve been able to meet many young, intelligent people who are seriously considering farming as a career. Quite a few of these people have worked in other careers before coming to farming. In just these brief two months I’ve met people from a variety of fields—non-profit development, graphic design, migrant workers’ rights activism, and more—all of whom have been drawn to farming as a second career for various reasons.

A relatively large percentage of my dearest friends that I met while living in UNC’s Sustainability Hall have skipped these first careers and headed straight into farming. Mostly, these friends work at farms around the Piedmont region of North Carolina, but I do have a friend that works on a goat farm in New York State. It’s also important to note that it’s not just friends from University of North Carolina that have entered into farming—my partner Emily-Kate (she went to New York University) and I collectively know many people our age who’ve been farming since they graduated from school in 2010. For me, there’s a tangible excitement in the air for young farmers across our nation.

The fact that there are many emerging young farmers is exciting for many reasons—perhaps the most obvious is the fact that the majority of people living in the United States don’t know where their food comes from and we, as direct participants in the food system, have the power to change that. It’s exciting because food is so intimately connected with health, our environment, and our economy, and that eating good food (subjective I know, but I think you can figure out what I think a good meal is) should be an option for everyone—no matter their education level, socioeconomic status, or geographic location. I’m just beginning to meet many of the young farmers of our generation, but all who’ve I met so far are extremely aware of the importance of producing food following sustainable practices and growing food that is accessible to all.

In the coming months, there are many events in the area where I’m sure to meet many more young farmers, and will also be learning from people that have been farming for most of their lives.

If you’re in the Piedmont area, here are a few events that I’m excited about and hoping to attend:

1) A showing of Greenhorns on April 17th at UNC—a documentary about young farmers across the U.S.

2) Carolina Farm Stewardship Association’s Farm Tour April 28th and 29th 2012—$25 per carload to tour many of the Piedmont’s sustainable farms

3) Farm to Fork Picnic benefiting the WC Breeze Family Farm—sometime this May

…and more events to come.

Thanks for reading!

Laura Stephenson is an environmental science graduate from the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill, where she focused in environmental and community health. She is currently working full-time at a small, organic farm outside of Hillsborough, North Carolina called Maple Spring Gardens. Laura writes the Farming and the Local Food Scene series about her experiences with local farms and farmers around the Piedmont area of North Carolina.

Posted on: April 10, 2012, 6:00 am Category: Farming and the Local Food Scene Tagged with: , , , ,

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