- Education and Training: decision support system, farmer to farmer, networking
- Sustainable Communities: analysis of personal/family life, community development, community planning, community services, employment opportunities, leadership development, local and regional food systems, public participation, public policy, quality of life, social capital, social networks, urban agriculture, urban/rural integration
The faces of agriculture are changing. Farming is poised for a massive generational shift that raises serious concerns about how food production will transfer to the next generation. More than one-third of farmers are over age 65, and two-thirds are over age 55. Agriculture is failing to attract enough young people to meet current and future needs, and this age disparity is exacerbated as entrance into the farming sphere is often very difficult for young people due to a variety of challenges such as land prices, loan interest rates, proper training, etc. A 2016 study sponsored by Land O’Lakes Inc. and conducted by ORC International showed that only 3 percent of college graduates and 9 percent of millennials said they had thought about an agriculture career, with more than half of respondents saying it would be difficult to find jobs.
Indiana lies deep in the corn belt of the Midwest where large acreage, mono-cropped fields reign. Small, diverse, sustainable farms and the farmers that operate them can find it difficult to carve out a place in this landscape. The outlook is not all grim, however, as many young people are starting to get involved in agriculture. However, they exist in small bubbles, often many miles from one another as the rural landscape denotes, often leading an isolated existence. Young farmers may have difficulties obtaining access to capital for land, equipment, access to education on alternative farming techniques, access to supportive professionals in agriculture, and loans with affordable interest rates.
Our group intends to alleviate the stresses around these problems by providing an organized social structure within which young and beginning farmers can find and spend time with each other, sharing tricks of the trade, celebrating successes, and commiserating challenges.
The Hoosier Young Farmers Coalition will be a farmer-led group that seeks to provide a community for those new, young, and beginning farmers. We seek to boost morale among new farmers, facilitate friendships and business partnerships, and offer an organizing platform for tackling barriers to farming on the local, state and national level. There is not an existing structure such as this one in the Indiana, and as the first we would be enhancing the fledgling young farmer community in our state through farmer-to-farmer trainings, social events, outreach and networking at conferences that focus on small farms and beginning farming.
The organization is farmer driven and farmer led. Three young farmers who operate their own small farms will share the duties of leading the organization, allowing them to tailor projects and events to the needs and wants of their community. The central idea of Hoosier YFC is outreach to the beginning and young farmer community. By connecting young farmers throughout the state we hope to bolster existing beginning farms as they grow into thriving and established farms, as well as provide a community of support and information for aspiring farmers and farm workers. This is a particular niche that has not been filled in the state. Within the last five years Purdue extension has created a small farms division and there are several groups such as the Local Growers Guild and Hoosier Farmers Market Association that work to grow space for entrepreneurship of local farmers. However, there is no organization that seeks to provide a like-minded community specific to young and beginning farmers to learn from one another in a formal way or build a place for kinship, morale, and friendship. We are very excited to the start this specific organization and meet this need in our community.
Project objectives from proposal:
- Form the Hoosier Young Farmers Coalition, a group of young and beginning farmers organizing a community for knowledge sharing, relationship building, and improved farming practices.
- Provide Hoosier young farmers with access to environmentally healthy farming methods through educational events.
- Encourage Hoosier young farmers to grow the local food market, rather than simply dividing an existent market, which may bring positive environmental and economic impacts in the long-term.