- Education and Training: farmer to farmer
- Farm Business Management: new enterprise development, agricultural finance
- Sustainable Communities: analysis of personal/family life
The Minnesota Food Association’s Future Sustainable Farmer Project attempts to describe the background and skills successful 21st century sustainable farmers will require and offer insights into their traits, attitudes, and social priorities. The purpose of the project is to help address the educational and community barriers with which future sustainable farmers are faced. Quite often, sustainable farmers find that publicly-funded institutions do not provide the information, educations, and training they need. Meanwhile, they may be faced with a lack of support from community members and other farmers who look with suspicion on their practices.
The future of a reliable and safe food source, healthy communities, clean water, and productive land may rest to a large extent in the hands of tomorrow’s farmers and today’s educators. In an effort to help educational institutions meet this challenge, the Future Sustainable Farmer report identifies attitudes, knowledge, skills, and social issues that will be important to 21st century farmers and explains how sustainable farmers acquire and maintain the skills the need to farm sustainably.
The results of this report and the dialogues form the basis of a job description that highlights the background, skills, knowledge, education and experience a future farmer will require. The skills and knowledge identified in the study will also be compared with the various land-grant curricula to determine how well the university courses match the needs of future sustainable farmers. In addition, the Minnesota Food Association has begun work with land-grant institutions to increase and enhance the universities’ sustainable agriculture offerings.
The profile of the sustainable farmer of the future will not mirror that of farmers of previous generations. The farmer of the future may or may not have grown up on a farm. In fact, the future farmer may have lived his/her entire life in the city. The future farmer may easily be a man or a woman, born in the United States, or elsewhere. One certainty is that the traditional image of a farmer is likely to change.
The sustainable farmer of the future will do more than just grow food, raise animals and make a profit to support the family; he or she will serve as an educator, protector of the land, and community builder. The future sustainable farmer will require patience and the ability to think and plan long term. Significant manual and intellectual work as well as special management skills will be required. Finally, the future farmer will view quality of life and living within his/her natural and financial means as a top priority.
To help future sustainable farmers acquire and maintain skills they will need to farm sustainably educational institutions will have to rethink not only what they teach, but how they teach it and who they view as their customers. Land grant institutions are in the position to lead the way with programs geared at preparing students from a variety of backgrounds to become farmers and help current farmers to improve their skills. Effort should also be made to encourage greater exchanges between researchers and farmers so that the work the universities produce is sure to match the needs of their intended audiences, which will include in increasing numbers sustainable farmers.
(As stated in the original grant)
1. Develop a job description that (a) describes the work of the future farmer, (b) reflects society’s expectations of those who care for the land and grow food in a sustainable way, and (c) reflects quality of life expectations of the farmer as a member of a local community.
2. Develop a prospectus for the preparation of the people to be farmers in sustainable agriculture.
3. Use the job description and the prospectus as a means of broadening the discussion and acceptance of sustainable agriculture as an important force for development of rural communities.