Small farmers are everywhere — especially millennial farmers. As the farming population ages, young farmers are becoming more and more important to the way our food is produced. Customers are starting to demand answers about where their food was grown, how it was grown, and even who grew it.
While urban agriculture is certainly popular with millennials, many young people are choosing to leave cities behind and pursue rural farming life. Wherever they choose to farm, young are definitely making a big impact on the future of organic farming and food security. Let’s take a look at five millennial farmers and organizations to keep an eye on:
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1. Fleet Farmers | Orlando, FL
Since its inception in 2014, Fleet Farming has taken the world of urban farming by storm. These young farmers take over suburban lawns and transform them into food-producing green gardens filled with lettuce and other leafy greens.
Fleet Farming works to increase access to local food which in turns helps bring together a healthier population of people with strong connections between them. By making healthy food accessible and extremely visible in residential areas, Fleet Farmers are, in turn, fighting the obesity epidemic too.
According to Bradley University,“the widespread availability of convenience and fast foods, typically high in saturated fat, calories, salt and sugar is likely a major contributor to the obesity epidemic.”
When healthy food is more affordable and easier to get (thanks to organizations like Fleet Farming), it’s easier for people to choose healthy options over the sugary, processed fast food that has turned America into a nation of unhealthy people.
2. Rand Rasheed | One Leaf Farm | Snohomish, WA
Rand Rasheed started One Leaf Farm in 2011 and has been growing vegetables on 8 acres ever since — without a trace of synthetic chemicals, of course.
Rasheed sells the farm’s produce to local restaurants and to customers at a farmers market in Seattle. Utilizing natural processes like composting, crop rotation, grazing, and cover cropping, Rasheed is a true purveyor of soil fertility and health and keeps that philosophy at the core of her farming endeavors.
If all farmers had a mindset like Rasheed’s and highlighted the importance of soil health in relation to human health, the state of farming would be in a much different, and arguably better, place today.
3. Annie Novak | Eagle Street Rooftop Farm | Brooklyn, NY
Annie Novak, founder of Eagle Street Rooftop Farm, has made a strong presence for herself in the world of urban agriculture. Founded in 2009, Novak’s Rooftop Farm grows organic vegetables on 6,000 square feet of rooftop space three stories up from ground level in Brooklyn, NY. It’s not exactly your typical field full of food.
Novak doesn’t stop at just farming. She also published a book called “The Rooftop Growing Guide: How to Transform Your Roof into a Vegetable Garden or Farm” and even started a nonprofit food education program called Growing Chefs.
As more and more land gets developed, it takes millennial farmers like Novak to think of innovative solutions to the problem of how and where we’re going to grow food to feed an ever-increasing population of people at the global dinner table.
4. Helena & Matthew Sylvester | Happy Acre Farm | Sunol, CA
First-generation farmers Helena and Matthew Sylvester grow veggies on 2.5 acres at Happy Acre Farm in Sunol, CA, selling their organic food through CSA shares and to local restaurant and farmers market customers.
The Sylvesters are committed to sustainable farming practices and are working to create habitats for beneficial insects and farm creatures to work in harmony with the plants they grow.
Farming practices like the ones used by Helena and Matthew are an essential part of keeping our food abundant, healthy, and diverse.
5. Taylor Hutchinson & Jake Mendell | Footprint Farm | Starksboro, VT
Taylor Hutchinson and Jake Mendell started Footprint Farm in 2013 on 30 acres of family land, which helped them cross the hurdle many young farmers face: access to affordable land on which to farm.
The two millennial farmers are certified organic growers of vegetables, flowers, eggs, and sometimes pork. Hutchinson and Mendell are active parts of the National Young Farmers Coalition, which works to help young farmers achieve success. They also spend time participating in a mentorship program at a local elementary school to educate the next generation of food growers.
Farmers are busy people often at the mercy of an extreme set of variables out of their control. The fact that Hutchinson and Mendell take time to give back to their community really sets them apart.
Since millennials are more mindful of healthy eating, it’s no mystery why so many are involved in farming, whether on the down-and-dirty growing side, the marketing side, or involved in something like the farm-to-table dining scene, community gardens, or farmers market management.
These millennial farmers and farm organizations are working hard to change the face of farming and food security in America. Our plates depend on them.
Who did we miss? Who are your favorite inspiring millennial farmers?