Where Have all the Farmers Gone?
Did you know that the average age of a farmer today is 55.9 years? That startling statistic is taken from an article written by the US News and World Report on Feb 24, 2014. Preliminary results from a US Department of Agriculture census indicate that the figure is closer to 58 now; regardless, it appears that the occupation of family farming is dying out. The reasons for this are many: the price of land keeps going up and the price of commodity foods (think corn, soybeans, wheat) keeps going down, and the economics of growing real food just don’t seem to work. This leaves more and more of our food supply up to the big corporations who grow using the “conventional” methods that destroy our land and water sources and create food that is as barren in nutrients as the soil it’s grown in.
Americans are becoming aware of this growing crisis in our food supply. For many of us the aha-moment comes when we face a health crisis and discover that better health comes with better food. Food that is grown on land that is nourished and replenished. Food that is grown naturally, the way we grew food for a millennia. Affording organically grown and locally produced food can be a stretch for many of us, especially when “foodlike substances” (thanks, Michael Pollan, for that description) can be purchased for a fraction of the cost. The plight of those who can’t afford to eat locally grown, organic food spotlights the plight awaiting us all; we need to fix our food system before all the arable land is developed into shopping malls and subdivisions. Before all the farmland is owned by one or two multinational commodity growers. Before it is too late.
Creating Sustainable Local Food Economies
If creating a sustainable food system that promotes health and wealth being and a sustainable local economy is important to you, then you should be aware of the Carolina Farm Trust. This awesome young organization was founded by Zack Wyatt. The mission of the Carolina Farm Trust is to raise money to buy farmland so that it can be leased back to farmers at tax value. According to Zack, “The loss rate of farm land is alarming. Every year 100,000 acres of land is lost to urban and suburban development in North Carolina alone. Carolina Farm Trust is looking to compete with developers for land, buy it, and lease it back to the farming community, at rates low enough to cover the taxes. This will work two ways: it will allow new entrepreneur farmers to have access to land and existing farms to build and expand. By giving land access to new entrepreneur farmers and existing farmers to expand, we are helping the supply reach the local demand. Our goals are based on true economic development and investment in the Carolina region.”
The Carolina Jubilee Festival
While there are many ways to help Zack and the Carolina Farm Trust with their critical mission, an easy and super fun way is to attend the Carolina Jubilee festival. Once a year the Carolina Farm Trust hosts the 2 day music festival to raise money for their mission. Carolina Jubilee takes place at the beautiful VanHoy Farms in Harmony, North Carolina.
The VanHoy Farms have hosted countless Fiddler Conventions, Country Music Festivals, Smile Fests, etc… and is perfectly set up to accommodate a large crowd. This year’s festival was held on October 16 and 17, and Norm’s Farms was proud to be a sponsor and vendor of this great event. And, even better, we had an excellent time! Everything about the festival was pitch perfect; the bands were great, the food was stellar (best grass-fed burger I have ever had, thanks to Mary L Farm!), and the local beer from Fullsteam Brewery and cider from Bull City Cider Works were delicious and plentiful. There were plenty of local food producers vending their products to showcase what a local farm economy can produce.
The highlight for Rodger was being able to get up on stage and play with the last band Saturday night. That’s Rodger, on the right, in the picture below playing the washboard.
You can follow the Carolina Farm Trust, the Carolina Jubilee and Zack at www.thecarolinajubilee.org and at www.carolinafarmtrust.org. Also find them on Instagram at “jubileecarolina” and via Twitter @JubileeCarolina.
Fundraising is going on all the time; in fact they have a beautiful 43 acre tract of land under contract and donations are needed now. No amount of money is too small to make a big difference in our local food supply!